Parents of students in Iowa City weigh options as districts offer in-person learning

Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 11:55 AM CST
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Some school districts are back to fully in-person learning Tuesday, under a new state law that went into effect this week.

Tuesday marks the first time students in Iowa City will be returning to the classrooms full-time in person, after the district went virtual Monday due to weather.

The mother of a fourth grader in Iowa City said her son is excited to be back learning in-person. Laura Voshell told KCRG-TV9 her son struggled with learning 100 percent online and struggled even more during the hybrid model. Voshell’s son Isaac attends Coralville Central Elementary School, and she said he thrives on socialization.

In August, when learning was all online, she said Isaac’s only other interaction with kids was with his little brother, which started to take a toll on his mental health.

Voshell said they thought hybrid learning would be better for Isaac since he missed his friends, but it turned out to be more difficult for him due to a lack of consistency.

She is excited for Isaac to be back in-person full-time, so he can get some consistency and interaction with others his age, but she said, as a parent, it’s scary because the virus is still spreading.

“It’s scary because nothing has really changed virus wise, there hasn’t been like a now everybody is vaccinated or more money for schools to make it more safe while they’re in-person,” Voshell said. “It kind of just feels arbitrary to pick a date and like alright, now everybody is in school.”

Voshell said she works from home and was grateful to be there for Isaac during his virtual learning days, but it also forced her to juggle between helping him and doing her work.

While in-person learning is an option, parents can still keep their children online.

KCRG-TV9 also talked to an Iowa City mother of three, who is choosing not to send her kids back to in-person learning.

Sarah Kehoe said having a baby in December really impacted their family’s decision to stay online. She said they were worried that their kids in 3rd and 5th grade could bring home the virus, and expose their two-month-old baby brother.

Kehoe said her kids enjoyed the hybrid model and hoped to be back in-person full time around the spring trimester. But with hybrid no longer an option, they chose to stay online for the rest of the year.

She’s also concerned about the state’s vaccine rollout, saying she wanted to see teachers vaccinated before being set back to the classrooms full time.

Under the new law, the state can waive in-person requirements if the Department of Education grants a waiver due to teachers quarantining.

As of Friday, the district’s website says 120 students and 13 teachers are in quarantine. Kehoe said the numbers always fluctuating made it a hard choice for parents.

“It’s a really hard decision that parents have to struggle with,” She said. “Especially when we’re seeing these numbers that are in quarantine. It’s like okay, you’re going to send your kid to school for a day or two, and the next thing you know somebody tests positive, and then you have to quarantine for two weeks. For us, I really felt like it was about offering consistency for our kids.”

Kehoe said she doesn’t think her kids will fall behind by learning online this year,  because a lot of other school-aged kids are going through the same experiences. She said her 5th grader socializes on Google Hangouts where she can video chat with her friends and work on homework after class.

Kehoe also said if the virus is not under control by Fall, her kids will still stay online. She said they’re thankful the Iowa City Community School district is offering 100 percent online learning as a permanent option next year, just in case.

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