I am writing as a parent of two middle schoolers in the Gilroy Unified School District. Like many families in our town, we embraced distance learning (DL) wholeheartedly in the beginning of the pandemic when there was very little information about the Covid-19 virus and the resulting pathology. We looked forward to spending more time together as a family, learning new domestic skills like cooking, helping the folks more at risk in our communities and being more able to help our children with their schoolwork.
This plan worked OK for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, and we managed the ambiguous information from the school district because “we were all in it.”
Over the summer we were told that we would open the school with a hybrid model where the kids would attend in-person instruction for two days a week. Days before school returned that plan was changed to full-time DL, and that has been the case all along now.
This had a palpable effect on our children: we saw the lack of enthusiasm, loss of hope and de-motivation instill immediately upon receiving this news. Of course we put a spin on the news and repackaged it as good news, giving us more time together, but they didn’t buy it this time.
Over the course of the year my son, a GATE student, spiraled down to a completely unmotivated, misbehaved, screen-addicted early teen, and my daughter, also a GATE student, became more and more demoralized as she received mediocre grades for intense work as she simply couldn’t understand principles from the online instruction (teacher-led or videos).
Our son’s mood became a mild clinical depression and his grades fell so much that we had no choice but to take him out of the district and place him in the only private school open in Gilroy. My daughter refused to move to another school and is continuing to work around the clock to perform well in school.
This brings us to today: after months of talk of reopening plans, we were presented with a plan where middle school would attend 55 minutes per day for four days a week of in-person instruction. The shock, disappointment and embarrassment is very widespread among parents. The district had over a year to prepare for the time they could reopen…it seems we didn’t receive a good output of that effort.
As a parent I feel that the kids’ needs and our needs as parents have not been considered much.
While individual teachers have worked very hard this school year and have made the best of it, for the most part, the district has let the children and the parents down. We found out that the reopening committee that has been put together in the beginning of DL includes no member of the community, only teachers. This is in spite of multiple requests from parents, including me, to serve.
How can teachers represent the point of view of parents? They have unions, hierarchy and peers to consider, not us…very odd approach.
However, my family holds out hope that a better reopening plan is produced. We hope that central to such plans will be the well-being of the children short-term and long-term. We are also hoping to see some plan to address the now widespread depression among school children and the learning loss that happened over the last year. Parents were lobbied to decline state benchmark testing. I am at a loss why that would be: don’t we want to know how kids are doing nationally and how much work is needed to address potential gaps?
We are very much looking forward to learning how we can help overcome these obstacles and work on these problems together. Hopefully the district will turn to the parents for help, ideas and support.
Ella Cozmi is a parent of two middle schoolers in the Gilroy Unified School District.