The Virtual School Blues: Parents Face Pandemic-Related School Fluctuations

Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) reopened schools on April 12, 2022, but the merry-go-round of virtual learning is forcing parents to choose between their child’s education and earning a decent wage for survival. As children return to school from the spring break, along with the resulting spike in Covid cases and confusion, parents are again met with resurrected concerns of COVID safety, teacher preparedness and the overall effects on education. DPSCD 

At the top of the year, parents and children alike sat idly by waiting on the decision from multiple school districts as to whether kids would enter buildings for the start of 2022. Announcement after announcement, parents were disheartened to learn that for the first several weeks of the new school year, their children would return to virtual learning. Early spikes of the Omicron variant forced schools to shut down. For parents, the last-minute decision created conflict as they scrambled to accommodate their children as well as their work schedules.  

“Me being at home and them being at home is just, at times, it’s an adjustment,” said Raquelle ‘Rocki’ Harris, social worker and media personality. “At times it can be frustrating because I don’t have a specific office in my home. Sometimes I’ve had to be in the kitchen, sometimes in my bedroom. When you have a family, they’re going to make noise.” 

With 20 years experience in the social work field, Harris has born witness to the effects the household has on children and their education.  

“There’s nothing that beats in-person interactions,” said Harris.  

Because today’s children are technologically savvy, some younger students are adjusting well to the virtual learning aspect. Unlike older children, those just starting off may be at an advantage as this is their first experience in school.  

“My child has actually adjusted better than I thought she would. Due to her age, I believe it has been easier for her because this is technically her first year in school,” said Sabrei Martin, a business owner, employee and mother to a 5-year-old and kindergartener.  

The DPSCD welcomed students and faculty back for in-person learning at the end of January. To keep kids and faculty safe, several measures are being taken to ensure children will be able to maintain in-person instruction throughout the remainder of the school year.  

“We know we will continue to have students and teachers who test positive. We will be implementing our learning center model at all schools to allow in-person instruction to continue. This model may include combining classrooms or hosting class in spaces overseen by a team of employees, some may also be from Central Office,” said Chrystal Wilson, assistant superintendent of communications for DPSCD, in a statement.

“It will be an all-hands-on approach to prevent shifting to online. We are working with families to ensure 100 percent of our students have a consent to test COVID form on file if they are attending in person. Forms need to be turned in upon return on Jan. 31. We are also encouraging all those eligible, five years and older, to receive the vaccine and booster.” 

For some parents, the safety measures are not enough as they must prepare for the possibility that virtual learning will return at some point in the school year. Through unprecedented times, parents are searching for a balance between working, parenting and teaching their children.  

“It’s kind of hard to have a job where I would have to go in the office. The school can decide to do virtual learning at any time,” said Martin. “Luckily, I have a job where I work midnights but when I get off work, I do have to stay up so I can log her into Zoom. The teacher is very good with the kids and I really only have to engage when my child has to switch classes or answer test questions on the laptop. The kids had sessions before Christmas break on how to navigate the laptop and how to mute/unmute themselves.” 

In addition to full-time schedules and virtual learning, parents of children with unique learning or behavioral difficulties must exert another level of attention.  

“My son has ADHD. He’s not severe, but again, he’s the type of kid who needs to be interactive. He needs to be in a classroom. He’s a kinesthetic learner. He needs to be touching things,” said Harris. “Imagine for us, all of us have gotten sick of Zoom as adults. Imagine for a kid sitting online most of the day. It’s just been those challenges of keeping him engaged.” 

As the year rolls on, parents wait in anticipation to see if children will be made to return to virtual learning or hybrid schedules. Parents are hoping for adjustments with concerns of advancement for their children.  

“Throw the past two-and-a-half school years away. Some kids are doing well, but for the most part, even educators agree that for the most part, a lot of kids are going to be lacking,” said Harris.  

Other parents hope schools will step in and modify their approach for parents who are full-time employees.   

“I feel like some students should be able to go to school, especially if their parents have to work. The schools should be open only to students who are not able to do virtual learning at home,” said Martin.  

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