From Houston Public Media:
Virtual school hasn’t been easy for Christina Quintero and her two children. Her son Fabian has a hard time focusing without his regular routine in the classroom. He’s 5 years old, has autism and is about to start kindergarten.
“My son, who has special needs, has a 15-minute span on learning. We’ve tried doing the in-home therapy online. And it tanked. It did not work at all,” Quintero said.
Her daughter Valentina is headed to first grade and has shown signs of anxiety.
“She goes, ‘Mom, I feel my heart heavy. I just feel sad, I don’t want to do anything.’ I’m like, ‘Well, let’s go, you know, outside, let’s play outside, let’s go swimming in your little pool or something.’ ‘Mom, it sounds like fun, but I just, I don’t want to do it,” she recounted.
Still, Quintero prefers her children learn at home this fall. She’ll coach them as best she can with a cellphone and a tablet, though she’s worried they’ll lose their internet since her husband’s out of work as a welding inspector.
“I’ve never felt like online would work for my family, but I feel like it’s the right choice right now because it’s the responsible thing to do as a parent, not just for my kids, but for my neighbors’ kids, for my nieces and nephews, for other children in the community,” Quintero said.
What also weighs on her decision: the statistics that show the coronavirus disproportionately impacts communities of color, like her own near the Port of Houston, which has primarily Black and Hispanic residents.
Like Quintero, just over half of families in the Houston Independent School District want to continue their children’s education with virtual learning this fall, according to a survey conducted earlier this summer. But another 47% of families said they agree with in-person instruction if class sizes are smaller.
The numbers reflect the divide among parents and policymakers in Texas about the best way to go back to school. The coronavirus outbreak in Greater Houston and much of Texas has made parents even more anxious.
“I don’t think anybody feels 100% great about the decision that they’re making, because what we all want is just to return to school in a normal environment, right?” said Suzi Kennon, president of the Texas PTA.
Making those decisions harder, Kennon said, have been the conflicting messages from state and local leaders about back to school. Gov. Greg Abbott has stressed local school boards decide how to reopen classrooms and says local health officials can close schools only after an outbreak.
The Texas Education Agency also changed its stance on funding this summer, initially guaranteeing full funding for online learning and then later saying schools wouldn’t get that full funding for virtual school after a certain timeframe.