Parents share ups and downs of extended online learning

Memphis Russ, first grade, ponders a question in his workbook. Monticello students and parents have had to make some adjustments while learning from home. (Photos submitted)

Roz and Memphis Russ tackle some schoolwork together while the MCSD is online for two weeks.

Brianna, 13, and Brevyn, 11, Kearney are tuned into their Chromebooks at the kitchen table at home. Some parents are working from home, too, while their kids are off school for another week. (Photo submitted)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The Monticello Community School District (MCSD) has been utilizing online learning since Wednesday, Nov. 11. Students are expected to return to in-person learning following Thanksgiving break on Nov. 30, pending the current COVID-19 situation in Jones County.

     With two weeks of online learning, compared just one day a week (Wednesday), parents and families have had to adjust and make arrangements to either be home with their children or see that they’re taken care of if both parents have to work.

     Emily and Johnny Russ’ two children, Roz, third grade, and Memphis, first grade, are making two-plus weeks of online learning work thanks to Emily’s job with Marion Economic Development. Russ relocated her office back home to work remotely while their young kids are home all day.

     Russ said she was actually relieved to see the MCSD resort to online learning.

     “With the growing number of cases and seeing friends contract the virus and how it’s effected their lives and the lives of their families has been very scary,” admitted Russ.

     Despite working from home herself, Russ said it’s been difficult trying to manage work and “keep our kids on task.”

     Russ’ is glad to have help from her mother and retired teacher, Dianna Rucker, who lives in town. “We’ve been blessed that my mom can help with the kids’ school work,” she said.

     Every morning, the Russ kids go to “Grandma’s” house before 8 a.m. and log onto their devices for assigned schoolwork. Russ said they average about three hours a day doing schoolwork.

     “Both of the kids’ teachers have done a few live lessons and read-a-louds from books,” Russ said. “I can’t say enough good things about their teachers; they have gone way above and beyond to ensure they are still learning.

     “I’m certain their teachers work around the clock and on weekends. I know without a doubt each student is getting individualized support, it’s incredible,” praised Russ.

     She admitted it can be difficult at times for her kids to get acclimated to the technology required for online learning.

     “We have learned that we need to review each night to ensure we make necessary revisions to homework after telling Grandma it’s all done,” said Russ of double-checking her kids’ work.

     To make sure her kids don’t spend too much time in front of a screen, the Russ’ take their kids outside to run around and help around the house.

     “We time the kids running loops around the pond,” Russ said.

     They also play with Legos or put together puzzles.

     In the end, though, Russ had this to say: “I think we’ve learned how incredibly important being in the school building is and how entirely for granted we took that experience. The teachers in our district are incredible and are themselves trying to balance a lot amongst their own families. We greatly appreciate their dedication to all students, and I think we’ve all learned that slowing down has been good.

     “While we want to get back to ‘normal,’ may we never forget the things we used to take for granted.”

     Angi and Brian Kearney have two kids: Brevyn, fifth grade, and Brianna, seventh grade.

     Like Russ, Angi is able to work from home rather report to Kendall Hunt Publishing in Dubuque. Kearney said they’ve been pretty flexible since the start of COVID.

     “All of our departments in the home office in Dubuque and in Minneapolis and Cincinnati went 100 percent virtual in mid-March,” shared Kearney. She said while some employees have returned to work, the majority are still working remotely.

     For herself, she’s been working from home while her kids remain home, too.

     “When they went back to school at the end of August, I did got back in a few days a week,” continued Kearney. “I was able to transition back to 100 percent remote when Monticello announced the 100 percent online for two weeks.”

     Watching how COVID numbers kept rising in the county, Kearney was not surprised the school went online, especially when the Anamosa school district chose to go online a week prior.

     “Part of me was relieved to know the time had come, and part of me was stressed with having to figure out how to juggle their schoolwork and my work,” said Kearney.

     She said her son’s schoolwork takes longer and requires more supervision to make sure everything is done correctly, namely his math work. On average Brevyn might spend five hours a day with work, while Brianna might spend three hours or so.

     Brevyn also has required scheduled Google Meet sessions with some of his teachers.

     “He loves these times for interaction with his teachers and also classmates,” Kearney said.

     Brianna’s teachers are always available during set amount of times a day if she has questions.

     The Kearney kids do have set times in which they need to do heir schoolwork. They try to get online no later than 8:30 a.m. each day, as that’s when teachers tend to post assignments.

     “Then we just plug away until we have done all the work for the day,” she said.

     Kearney said it’s not hard for her kids to dedicate time to online work, “it’s just different than what they are used to.” She said having every Wednesday online prior has been helpful “to get them into a rhythm for the online learning and expectations.”

     She admitted the lack of socialization has been hard, though, not seeing their classmates on a regular basis.

     When it comes to assisting their kids with their schoolwork, Kearney said communication with their teachers in key.

     “For the most part, if we reach out, they usually get right back to us right away, so that is very helpful.”

     One of Brevyn’s teachers was able to walk Kearney with the best way to help her son with his math assignments.

     To occupy their time aside from schoolwork, the Kearneys have been spending family time together watching Christmas movies and going on a daily walk. They also have chores around the house.

     Ava Capron, eighth grade, and Chesney Capron, 10th grade, are the children of Mindy and Ben Capron. Because their kids are older, they’re trusted to stay home and to get their schoolwork done without Mom or Dad present 24/7.

     Both Mindy and Ben work outside the home.

     Mindy admitted she wishes her children were in school full time rather than spend these two weeks online.

     “Being in school is better than online,” she said. “They need a routine of getting up each morning and getting going.”

     Capron said while some parents allowed their kids to learning online during sports season, they never gave their kids the option.

     “They’re safest in school,” she said.

     Capron said she’s thankful they can trust their kids to get their schoolwork done while home.

     “We take this seriously,” she said.

     Her kids do have live Google Meet sessions with some of their teachers, as well as live music lessons.

     Both kids log on by 8 a.m. every morning.

     “They know it’s their job to get their schoolwork done,” reinforced Capron.

     While Ava might spend four or so hours doing her work, Chesney is online longer during the day.

     “They will have a lot of catching up to do,” admitted Capron of all kids trying to make to through the school year successfully.

     Capron did remind her kids that if they’re grade drop, there could be consequences. She explained that if they were in school in-person, Chesney, for example, would have the opportunity to bring his grades up if needed. Because they’re online for another week, that opportunity does not exist.

     “I pray this is only for two weeks,” Capron said wishfully.

     When it comes to helping their kids with schoolwork, Capron admitted it is hard on them as parents to be of some assistance.

     “We’re at the mercy of their teachers for help,” she said.

     The Caprons do take time away from their screens to run outside and get some exercise. The family was saddened to hear that Ava’s basketball season has come to an abrupt halt following the Governor’s orders.

     “Hopefully we’ll get them back in school and to somewhat of a normal schedule,” said Capron.


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