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What parents want: Parents differ on whether to return to school virtually or in-person

After hearing teachers’ concerns about reopening Clark County’s public schools during a surge in COVID-19 cases, school district officials may soon hear from parents.

During a meeting Aug. 3, several teachers told the Board of Education they were concerned about their health and that of students and families.

Earlier the board had decided to start in-person classes for all grades on Sept. 8, but on the agenda for last week’s meeting was a recommendation by Superintendent Paul Christy to have virtual instruction only for the first nine weeks. The board voted 3-2 to approve the recommendation with the caveat that at its Sept. 21 meeting, they would reconsider.

Some parents, however, want the board to reconsider as early as its meeting Monday.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Shanda Pace Cecil asked whether parents were going to the Aug. 17 meeting.

“I think there needs to be a strong presence if we want these kids back in school,” Cecil said.

A few people said they planned to attend. Others suggested an open school board meeting at a larger meeting place, such as George Rogers Clark High School, to accommodate a crowd.

Christy said Thursday he had not seen those kinds of comments on social media, but he said he didn’t know whether the board would allow people to speak because by the rules, they can only comment at the beginning of the meeting about matters that are on the agenda, and there isn’t any discussion planned for the 6:30 p.m. meeting Monday about returning to in-person learning sooner than planned.

Cecil explained on her Facebook page that she thought virtual instruction would be hard, especially for children in kindergarten through third grade, and for special needs students.

“I know the decision is a difficult one,” she said, but mentioned that a majority of parents expressed their opinion in a survey that they wanted students to return to in-person learning.

The results of that survey were that 63 percent wanted in-person learning and 37 percent wanted virtual instruction. The board’s plan is still for instruction to be in person when they feel it is safe to do so.

Since the Aug. 3 meeting, Gov. Andy Beshear has asked that schools postpone reopening public and private schools until Sept. 28. The Kentucky Department of Education is backing that decision.

“That’s a very strong recommendation that carries some weight,” Christy said.

Late Thursday morning, The Winchester Sun questioned parents on its Facebook page about whether they agreed with the school board’s decision, since there were no parents who spoke at the Aug. 3 meeting. The responses were mixed. By 3 p.m., more than 4,600 readers had seen the post, and more than 200 had commented on it.

The responses included a diversity of opinions. They have been edited here only for grammar, spelling, punctuation and brevity.

Sara Nikki Jackson said she agreed with the board’s decision. With COVID-19 numbers in Kentucky still rising, she said, she felt it would have been “only a matter of time” before students were sent home anyway.

“I’d rather start the school year off with at-home learning than be thrown into it abruptly,” she said.

Robin Smalley was also supportive.

“This virus knows no bounds. Children do indeed get it. They do get very sick. They deserve to be protected,” she said, and so do school employees, she added.

Lydia Wilson Kohler, who is both a teacher and a parent, said child care is an issue for everyone, including her, but she wouldn’t want anyone to have long-term heart or lung damage because of the virus.

“I think it was the right choice for the health of our community,” she said.

LaBriska Rowsey said many people wouldn’t say what they really thought because of what others might say about them, and that “there are no good answers or options.”

Kimberly Smith Hobson said virtual learning won’t work for all children, and it means working parents have to “find other alternatives,” such as private schools.

“If we live in fear of everything, are we really living?” she asked.

“One child or teacher death from COVID-19 is totally unacceptable,” Dora Barnett Hall responded.

Tanina Schalte-Bishop mentioned that Georgia schools have had large coronavirus outbreaks after reopening last week.

“Why put kids and the teachers in harm’s way if it can be avoided?’ Anne Gatewood Leaf asked. “I am so tired of people making this political.”

Chad Lamb imagined a leftist media conspiracy. The virus is “no worse than the flu,” he said, and the issue has been blown out of proportion by “media pushing political boundaries.”

“Refund our property taxes and let us enroll them in private schools,” Jeremy Rogers suggested.

The coronavirus is never going to go away, and people have to learn to live with it like any other illness, he said.

Randi Woosley-Guffett said children need to be in school because they need interaction with other children and a structured environment.

“I want my kids back in school ASAP,” Erin Hendricks Lucas said. “My family has already had the virus and have the antibodies.”

Online learning was not a good option for her middle and high school daughters before, she said.

Brandy McDuffard said she has a child with an individualized education program, and she believes in-person learning is better for her child.

Anna Land Miller said she and her spouse have two teenage sons and one in fifth grade, and it is impossible for one of them to stay home with them.

Stacey L. Perritte suggested that those who want to send their children back to school should be able to do so, and those who want them to learn at home should have that option.

“It isn’t that hard,” she said. “Make the parents sign waivers for the ones who go back” saying they won’t hold school officials accountable, she said.

A couple of parents said their kids weren’t going back to school during the pandemic no matter what decision school officials made.

Debbie Cox Fatkin, a former Clark County school board member, said the safety of more than 5,000 students and 800 employees weighs heavily on school officials.

“There is no easy answer, and you will never make everyone happy,” she said.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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