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School This Fall? Some Parents Are Torn, Some Aren't. All Are Stressed.

Mary Rose Madden

Parents are wrestling with the question of whether to send their kid into the classroom this fall, log them on, or come up with Option C.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­What to do about school. It is the only thing parents talk and think about.

Will it be 100% virtual? 100% in-person?  A hybrid model with some in-person teaching?  Will masks actually be worn? Could shields and dividers help? Why not have all classes outside? Transportation issues, bathroom access…recess? 

Katrina Raysor's 13-year-old son, Christian, goes to Baltimore City Public Schools. He has asthma and Raysor's mother, who lives with them, has cancer. During COVID, she underwent radiation for the first time. Raysor couldn’t go with her, of course. And it was a very stressful time.

But, she said, making the school decision? That was not hard.

"I’m not sending him back. Because of my mom’s situation and as well as [his]. I can’t imagine sending an asthmatic child to a school to wear a mask all day - I just can’t. It seems cruel. And I wouldn’t do that."  

The CDC says those with asthma are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.

Raysor’s an IT manager. The company she works for said everyone can work from home until all the kids are back at school, full time.

But each person has their own unique circumstance, of course.

On a local message board, one person wrote, “My child will have to be in daycare when they’re not on their A/B schedule. But I can’t find any daycare openings. And how is that safer than school?” Someone else wrote that they don't feel equipped to homeschool their child. 

And with the traditional start of school just weeks away, Baltimore City School administrators haven’t even decided what they’ll do yet.

Noah Walker teaches pre-k in Baltimore at the school where his daughter is a student. He says he loves work with the students. "I love what I do. And I don’t want to walk away from my position," but, he says, he doesn’t want anyone to be forced into harm’s way.

Credit Noah Walker
Noah Walker Baltimore City pre-k classroom. He says He loves working with the students, but doesn't want anyone's health to be at-risk in the close quarters of in-person teaching.

At the same time, Walker says, online teaching doesn’t lend itself to early childhood curriculum.

"I see exactly how they learn with me, with the other students. However it’s really, really hard because for lack of a better word to say it – these little kids are gross. They sneeze, they cough, they can’t tie their shoes."

They’re germy and social distancing doesn’t come naturally to them.

Mia Loving is sitting on the stoop of her rowhouse. She owns a business and has three kids. Online learning is tricky, she says. Once her six-year-old got hold of a device, she wouldn’t put it down. She became obsessed with the videogame, Roblox.

"I would take the phone or I would take the devices and then there was a lot of acting out. Until it was like  "okay, just get your stuff. Because now I have this meeting that I have to do."

If the work life thing didn’t feel impossible before, now? It’s a joke.  

This story originally aired on NPR. 

Mary Rose is a reporter and senior news producer for 88.1 WYPR FM, a National Public Radio member station in Baltimore. At the local news desk, she assigns stories, organizes special coverage, edits news stories, develops series and reports.
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