Flynn family goes online for 2020-21 school year

The Flynn children, Sully (11th grade), Stella (seventh grade), and Soren (second grade), are spending their 2020-21 school year 100 percent online. Parents Tim and Jill said they chose this option for the health and well being of everyone in their family. (Photos courtesy of Timothy Flynn Photography)

Sully and Soren do their schoolwork at the kitchen counter. Sully dressed the part by wearing a button-up shirt and tie, complete with sweatpants.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Last week, Monticello Schools Superintendent Brian Jaeger reported that the Monticello Community School District has 127 students in grades PreK-12 taking part in online learning for the 2020-21 school year. That’s 13 percent of the total student body.

     The MCSD offered three different education options for families this year: brick and mortar, hybrid (combination of in-person and online), and 100 percent online.

     Tim and Jill Flynn’s three children: Sullivan 11th grade, Stella seventh grade, and Soren second grade, are all learning online from home for this year.

     There were several reasons why the Flynn family decided this was the best option for their children. Tim and Jill have elderly parents, and don’t want to cause harm or increased risk to COVID-19.

     Another reason, according to Tim, is the fact that, as parents, they are just not comfortable with the safe guards the school district has in place as students returned to school on Aug. 24 after being away since mid-March.

     “We’ll see how it all shakes out for the fall season,” warned Tim.

     Tim works in the IT department for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

     “I am trained on safety protocols,” he said, noting his work within a medical facility, especially during the time of a pandemic.

     The Flynn family knew as early as this summer that they would have their kids learning from home full time. They spoke with Jaeger and each of the school’s principals about their plans prior to school starting.

     “We just went over our plan and what to expect,” Tim said. “They were curious about our reasons (for going online only). We were concerned about having our kids in school and what if they were exposed.”

     The Flynns’ daughter, Stella, would have started her school year inside the new middle school. Tim and Jill acknowledged that she’s obviously missing out on that, as well as the socialization aspect.

     “She’s been anxious to see her friends,” Tim said.

     The kids use various social media and video-messaging apps to stay connected with their friends and peers.

     The Flynns said their kids understood that learning 100 percent online meant giving up a few things, but at the same time they understand the precautions needed to remain healthy right now.

     Sully has to report to the Monticello Kirkwood center several times a week for in-person classes as part of the engineering program. When he’s at Kirkwood, he makes sure to wear a face covering and gloves at all times.

     “He understands why social distancing is so important,” noted Jill.

     Learning from home, the Flynn children have to use their time wisely. All of their assignments are due before the end of the day on Sunday. If they don’t complete that schoolwork on time, the assignment goes away.

     “Each teacher handles assignments differently,” Tim said.

     Jill explained kids watch pre-recorded or YouTube videos sent out by their teachers. Sully and Stella used their school Chromebooks and Google Meet, while Soren has an iPad issued by the school and the Seesaw app. Most of Soren’s schoolwork entails completing lessons workbooks as well.

     “We do homework on a daily basis,” said Jill, “8 a.m. till 3 p.m. We try as hard as possible to stick to that schedule.”

     If the family has to be somewhere in the middle of the day for a doctor’s appointment for instance, Jill said the kids bring all of their materials and devices and do schoolwork in the car.

     “We’re still on top of things,” she added.

     “The majority of their work is self-based learning,” added Tim. “We just make sure they’re on task.”

     Jill said it’s a lot of personal responsibility.

     Sully, the oldest, finds this learning option easier because he’s self-driven. They admitted their youngest, Soren, sees this as being homeschooled.

     The Flynn children have the added advantage of having both parents home with them during the day, which helps as well.

     Tim telecommutes for his job with the UIHC, something he’s been doing since COVID hit in March. Jill edits photos from home for their photography business, and operates an in-home wine tasting business as well.

     “It would be difficult if we were both out of the house,” admitted Jill of their family decision.

     When it comes to asking questions of their teachers, Soren has instant contact with Seesaw. The two older kids resort to emailing their teachers and waiting for responses. Tim said they try and ask all of their questions in one email versus bombarding their teachers with emails all day.

     “You can tell this is not the school’s preferred method of learning,” Tim said of working out some kinks with online learning. “We’re all working out the issues.”

     Despite learning from home, the Flynn children are still able to take part in sports and school activities if they choose. Sully was recently elected class president of the junior class, and conducts meetings with the student council via Google Meet.

     All three kids are also involved in Scouts.

     “They’re still doing Scouting activities from home,” Jill said.

     As for whether their kids are missing out on in-school opportunities, the Flynns don’t see it that way.

     “They use Zoom and chat with their friends,” Jill offered.

     Over the summer, their kids did have friends over, but they tried to limit it to only a few.

     “No sleepovers,” added Jill.

     The family, as a whole, also limits their trips to the store or out and about, making sure to wear the proper protective gear when out in public.

     Knowing that this was not an easy choice for their family, the Flynns feel that this decision will help their children in the long run.

     “It will make them more independent, better critical thinkers, and personally more responsible,” Jill concluded.


Subscriber Login