Some Uvalde parents choose between private or online education


UVALDE — Brianna Gonzales, fresh off nursing duty, sat quietly alongside her two sons in the auditorium at Uvalde High School last week as school district officials presented to parents of new security measures for the coming school year.

Gonzales decided to keep his two sons, a kindergartener and a fifth grader, in the district. But it wasn’t the easiest decision. His eldest was at Robb Elementary on May 24, the day a gunman entered the school and killed two teachers and 19 children. Fortunately, she had brought her son home before the shooter entered the building.

But a summer of conflicting government accounts has Uvalde’s parents on edge, especially after a state report showed 376 law enforcement officers showed up at Robb on May 24 but didn’t haven’t engaged the shooter for more than an hour.

Parents are now trying to plan for the start of the school year and are faced with difficult choices regarding the education and safety of their children. Some are keeping their children in the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District when school starts Sept. 6. Some choose home schooling and others consider private schools.

“I just didn’t see the point of going to another district for me,” Gonzales said. “If it could happen here, it could happen there.”

Gonzales, like other parents in this working-class community, doesn’t have the time or money to look for other options right now. She has a full-time job and she usually gets up earlier to get herself and her kids ready for the day. Their father works out of town and is usually only home on the weekends, she said. That rules out trying to bring your kids to nearby districts or paying for a private school or even considering an online school.

“COVID has affected them a lot and I’ve seen how it’s affected their education and I don’t want them to have to go back to virtual,” she said. “I don’t have time to do things with them for school, so I feel like I would fail them on that part of their education.”

At least in Uvalde, she said, the district is working to make school safer as the first day approaches.

In the high school auditorium, Uvalde Schools Superintendent Hal Harrell spoke to parents and students about the district’s plans to make schools here safer and provide better access to mental health resources. He discussed the district’s partnership with Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine, also known as TCHATT, which helps identify the behavioral health needs of children and adolescents.

The district is also contracting with Rhithm, a company with an app that allows staff and students to log how they feel. Communities in Schools, a nonprofit focused on connecting students to resources, also sends teams into the district to provide additional behavioral health support to students.

The district is improving security on its seven campuses. Fences are installed in some schools. But Harrell couldn’t promise that Uvalde High School would be secured with fencing until day one due to the size and openness of that campus.

There will be 33 Texas Department of Public Safety officers deployed to the Uvalde School District throughout the school year. The district is also accepting applications from campus monitors, who would check door and gate locks and provide reports to administration. Some 500 cameras will be installed on campuses before the first day of school.

The district has spent about $4.5 million so far to improve security, some of the money coming from donations and grants.

CISD Uvalde will offer an online option for students who want to stay in the district but are not taking in-person classroom instruction. Students who opt for online instruction will receive all-new iPads, Harrell said.

The Texas Education Agency is in the process of approving Uvalde’s virtual school and ensuring it complies with Senate Bill 15, the virtual education bill passed in the second session last year’s special.

The bill also caps the number of students in the district who can be enrolled in a district’s online alternative. The school district will need a TEA waiver if more than 10% of all enrolled students want to be in online school.

But for Gonzales, Uvalde’s new safety plans seem to satisfy her and her children will return to in-person classes in the district.

“[Uvalde is] implementing new security features, having the soldiers there – it brings another added sense of security,” she said.

Gonzales made the decision two weeks ago to send his children back to CISD in Uvalde. It’s something parents here don’t usually question in this small town of 15,000, about 85 miles west of San Antonio, she said.

As a lifelong resident of Uvalde, Gonzales wanted her children to have the same experience she had in the district schools. She also wants her children to regain a sense of normalcy after two years of school disruption due to the pandemic.

But in the aftermath of the shooting, Gonzales still has a sense of fear and worry as the first day approaches. She bought her eldest son, who is 10, a cell phone. She hadn’t planned to buy him a phone until he was 13. She also plans to buy them bulletproof backpacks, which she considers an investment.

“Last year it was just ‘I have to buy school clothes’ and that was it,” she said. “This year is completely different.”

Adam Martinez, father of two students, will send his children to the online school offered by Uvalde. It wasn’t his first choice, but as he talked with his children, it was obvious that they were still scared.

“I was saying to my son, ‘there’s going to be a big fence, and they’re going to have state troopers at all the sites,'” Martinez said. “And he was like, ‘Who cares if there are cops? They won’t do anything anyway, they’re scared.'”

Others, however, still haven’t won back the trust of the school district. Angeli Gomez, a parent who had two children in Robb on the day of the shooting, was handcuffed that day trying to get answers from law enforcement about her children.

Now she and 19 other women have been in touch with a San Marcos woman who has offered to homeschool their children for free.

The mayor of Uvalde said Robb Elementary would be demolished and another school would be built in its place. But until that happens, no student will have to return to school. Instead, students will be spread across different CISD Uvalde campuses.

One of them is Flores Elementary. Gomez doesn’t think it’s a good idea to move Robb’s kids there.

“They’re trying to stuff our kids – third, fourth, fifth and sixth [grade] – in Flores, because they want to tear down Robb, but Flores will not be suitable for our children, ”she said. “We’re going to have, what, 33 kids in a class?” They won’t pay attention or learn.

Jeremy Newman, deputy director of the Texas Home School Coalition, said parents considering taking their children out of the public school system in favor of homeschooling don’t need to recreate what a public school does.

“People feel like they have to master every academic subject,” Newman said. “The job of parents is not so much to transfer knowledge from their head to the head of the students as to provide a learning environment where the student wants to learn.”

For people who have not been in charge of homeschooling their child, finding the right resources for their child can be overwhelming. Newman suggests they contact his group, which helps families who have always homeschooled or are just starting out.

The number of families homeschooling at least one child has tripled in Texas since the pandemic began, Newman said. According to data from the Texas Education Agency, nearly 30,000 students in grades 7 through 12 withdrew from public schools in Texas to homeschool during the 2020-2021 school semester, an increase of 40. % compared to the previous year.

The main reasons people choose homeschooling are security and academics, he said.

Other Uvalde parents will send their children to Sacred Heart Catholic School, one of three private schools in town. Principal Joseph Olan said interest in his school has increased from previous years. During the last school year, it had about 55 students enrolled. This year, that number has grown to 120 and he expects it to grow as the school year progresses.

The school has received donations to erect a fence around the campus, protect bulletproof windows and doors, and install a new security camera system.

“Those are the main reasons why families come,” Olan said.

It is not known how many Uvalde CISD students will lose this upcoming school year. In Texas, schools are funded based on student enrollment and daily on-campus attendance. Schools receive a base stipend of $6,160 per student each year. Any drop in enrollment means less money for the school district.

Diana Olvedo-Karau, who works in the school district’s transportation department, said homeschooling in Uvalde was not common. But more people are talking about it now.

Olvedo-Karau worries about the funding the district will lose if the children are removed, but she understands why parents might do it.

Uvalde school officials did not immediately respond to the Texas Tribune’s inquiry regarding enrollment numbers for this upcoming school year.

Uvalde’s mother, Tina Quintanilla, 41, plans to use a private online school company, K12, for her daughter’s instruction next year. She also has a son who needs special education classes, and she still hasn’t found a school for him. Quintanilla is a graduate of Uvalde High School, home of the Fighting Coyotes & Lobos, so the decision to seek alternatives was not easy.

“It’s heartbreaking because we’re the pride of the coyotes here,” she said, referring to the high school mascot. “We are loyal and faithful.”

Journalist Ariana Perez-Castells contributed to this story.

Source link

Previous K-12 Online Education Market Scope and Overview to Grow with Increased Global Focus on Industrialization 2029 | Benesse, XUEDA, YY Inc.
Next Agora falls as China's online education regulations hit Q2 revenue