School closures force parents, teachers to adjust quickly for continued education

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Jessica Detmer with her daughters Roxy and Riley Detmer. PHOTO BY DOMINIQUE WILLIAMS

Feel like pulling your hair out? You’re not alone.

Parents and teachers all over the county are adjusting to school closures due to COVID-19. 

School closures began in mid-March with most districts expecting for students to return to school in early April. 

On March 31, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond sent a letter to the California superintendents saying “due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing it currently appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year.”

Many parents are now doing double duty as they work from home and homeschool their children.

“My advice to other parents would be to reach out and use all the resources you can. If you need someone to talk to because you’re frustrated, don’t feel guilty. We’re all sad, tired, and unsure of what’s going to come of all this,” said Stefani Mendoza, mother of pre-k student Derek. “Having my child at home all day has been a new adjustment.”

Third-grade teacher and mom of two Christina Fortuny is teaching her children at home while also moving her entire curriculum online for her own students.

“I have moved my classroom into my office – which is nice because I can shut the door. When I’m in a training I put a Post-It on the door to remind them not to come in. However, my daughter still likes to come in to ask questions or tell me she’s bored,” said Fortuny.

There is also some concern from parents about the quality of education being received at home versus an on-campus setting.

Special situations like Mendoza and her sons’ can prove to be especially lacking.

“I don’t feel that [with] him being home he has received the same education as he would in school. He has peer interaction there, which is something he lacks at home with the current pandemic. The teachers are also trained very well to handle and teach children with autism,” said Mendoza.

On the other hand, some parents are adapting well to this sudden change in schedule.

“Having my kids at home all the time has been nice. [We get] to spend more family time together while making sure they are still doing homework,” said mother-of-three Jessica Detmer.

While some kids might feel like they’re missing out on school activities and social time, Detmer said her kids are doing just fine. 

“I’m not sure it is affecting them all that much. It seems like they feel they are on an early summer break,” she said.

This could be the case for a lot of students, which is why Fortuny said the importance of keeping students focused for the remainder of the school year. 

“Keep a regular school schedule- don’t let them stay up super late or sleep in. Keep the routine of getting ready for the day,” said Fortuny.

Thurmond’s message addressed the need for continued effort from parents and educators.

“This is in no way to suggest that school is over for the year, but rather we should put all efforts into strengthening our delivery of education through distance learning,” he wrote.

The greatest message from parents adjusting to this new reality: Hang in there and remember this is a new and confusing time for everyone- you’re not alone.

“It’s okay to have a cocktail every now and then to relax,” said Detmer laughingly.