Families turn to educators for unprecedented school year

Area families are turning to educators for some assistance in navigating this school year.

Whether parents have elected to send their kids back to school for the hybrid model or keep them at home doing full-time distance learning, parents are seeking some additional resources to ensure that their children have a successful school year. 

Centerville resident Sarah Olson chose to send her daughter, a first grader at Centerville Elementary, back to school for the hybrid model. 

“She is an extrovert. She recharges her battery by being around other people,” Olson explained. “For her, she needs the social interaction just by nature. That’s her personality, and I have to respect it.” 

Last spring when school shifted to distance learning, Olson said she discovered she needed some help. “I take the primary role with her education because I am here all the time. For me, it was too much with all of the ‘brush your teeth, pick up your dirty clothes,’ all of the general parent education you have to do and then do this worksheet,” Olson recalled. “It felt like all I did was tell her what to do. I was just constantly on her for something … I need to hold my ground on the parenting, but I need a teacher to do the teaching.” 

For that reason, this year Olson has hired a tutor, a first grade teacher in another district. The plan is to have her daughter spend 30 minutes to an hour twice each week with the tutor. 

“(My daughter) is a really good student. It is not that she needs the educational help so much as she needs the social aspect and the accountability,” Olson explained. “It is someone else to keep her accountable.” 

Circle Pines resident Erin Lange decided to keep all three of her kids at home this school year. This year would have marked Lange’s sixth year as a teacher in a district on the south side of the cities, but she decided to take a leave of absence to oversee her son’s distance learning and home-school her daughter. 

Lange’s oldest son, who is in the Career and Life Transition Program (CLT) in the Mounds View district, is distance learning. Her third grade son at Golden Lake Elementary is also distance learning. Her daughter, who would have been a kindergartner at Golden Lake this year, will stay home this year. 

“We want to hold her back a year in hopes that she will have a regular kindergarten experience. This year, I’m going to attempt to home-school as much as I can so she doesn’t lose what she learned in preschool,” Lange explained. “Kindergarten is so important for setting them up for how school is done.” 

Lange and her husband chose the distance-learning model for safety reasons. 

“COVID is very new and it is hard to get numbers on how impactful it is on children. Children have been home since March, so the data doesn’t really exist and we didn’t feel like we wanted our children to be part of that experiment,” she said. “What if our kids were carriers of it? My husband works in a hospital for children, and we wouldn’t want to bring that there and accidentally, not knowingly, expose somebody who is fragile. There are a lot of risk factors that we didn’t think were worthwhile right now until there is more data and we learn more about it.” 

In addition, it also came down to logistics. Lange said the days she would need to be on site teaching in her district did not align with the days her children would be in school. “It is a logistical nightmare allowing districts to do different things. If you don’t work where you live, it is nearly impossible. I can’t be in two places at once,” she said. 

She added that school-age child care is also hard to come by and incredibly expensive. “That would defeat the entire purpose of having them stay away from other families and kids.” 

Lange is hopeful that she will be able to return to her job in February if things calm down. 

White Bear Lake resident Mary Davis has three children in her home who all attend Birch Lake Elementary, a part of White Bear Lake Area Schools. She chose to keep them all at home distance learning this fall. 

“It was a really hard decision,” she explained. “I just feel like it is really hard for kids to keep on a mask all day. It is really hard for adults … To make sure that the teachers are safe, it is not just about the kids. The teachers are at risk as well.” 

Last spring, Davis had to quit her job so she could stay at home with the children while they were distance learning. “Without child care, it was too hard,” she said. She found herself having to play the role of parent and teacher, and knew she would need a little bit of assistance this year. 

“I had to look through all of these different search engines to try to help them,” she said. “They weren’t able to go up to a teacher and have them show them different ways to figure out the problem.” 

For that reason, Davis applied and was accepted into the Tech Packs program, a partnership between Tech Dump, Literacy Minnesota, Saint Paul Public Library and Ramsey County. The program brings computers, internet and digital literacy training into the homes of Ramsey County residents who have experienced economic impacts due to COVID-19. The program also helps pay for online tutoring for reading, spelling, math, etc. 

“I felt like it was necessary because now they are in distance learning and it is a new year, so the curriculum is going to get harder,” Davis explained. 


Lead Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or quadnews@presspubs.com.

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