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'There is no win-win': Spokane Public Schools parents react to virtual learning

Spokane Public Schools has selected to do virtual learning at the beginning of the school year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — For parents, their biggest concern is their children, so it's not a huge surprise that parents are reacting passionately to Spokane Public Schools moving online for the school year. 

One mother said the news was disheartening, but was the result of a tough situation.

"It's a little disheartening, but at the same time, kind of like the slogan 'you're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't,'" said Mary Bookey. "It's really overwhelming."

Bookey was one of four mothers of children in SPS schools to describe their reactions to the news.

Bookey and her husband both work full time. Their five and seven-year-old kids fluctuate between being with them and their neighbors.

Credit: Mary Bookey
Mary Bookey, her husband and kids

Another mother, Jennifer Dilley, described the situation as "sink or swim."

"It's going to be a sink or swim," said Jennifer Dilley. "There is no win-win in this situation."  

Dilley understood Bookey's feelings, as her 10 and 12-year-old are disappointed they do not get to go back to school, she said.

Credit: Jennifer Dilley
Jennifer Dilley and son

"I like to look on the on the silver lining of things, said Stephanie Giddens. 

Although it has been hard with her five sons, two of which are 7-months-old, it has been great, she said. 

But so far, not everyone feels that positively.

"I'm kinda angry, to be blunt about it," said Heather Eide.

Eide has two 7-year-olds, and she is worried about their social interaction, she said.

"Now you've taken that away, not just from him but from other kids who need that, who maybe don't have other siblings at home," she said. "That is like their sole source of interaction."

Credit: Stephanie Giddens
Stephanie Giddens with family before birth of her twins

"I think a lot of it is everyone's just feeding and fueling the fire, because they're scared," Dilley added.

"None of us have been through a pandemic before," said Giddens. "So there's a lot of unknowns and with unknowns comes some heightened feelings."

All of the women agree that it is not a good situation to be in.

"I feel bad for kind of everybody involved," said Bookey.

"I think just a little bit more like parent and student involvement would have gone a long way for the parents alone," said Eide. "They would have felt heard." 

"They're having to tread these waters and try and make these really, really, really difficult decisions, said Giddens. "They are taking in information from everywhere."

"I'm discouraged because a lot of these kids depend on the school services and the school outlets," said Dilley. 

Some voiced concern for students who may be in abusive situations at home.

"The school did not consider those kids who might be an abusive situations, who might not have food," said Eide.

Credit: Heather Eide
Heather Eide and family

"I'm sure taking into account all of the situations," added Giddens.

"While it is not a teacher's job, a teacher could say, I am worried this child is being abused," said Eide. "You cannot tell that over Zoom."

Another point raised was the danger that teachers could face if and when schools reopen.

"I feel bad for the teachers because if we go to school, we put the teachers in that sort of environment," said Bookey. "That's not safe." 

Putting their kids in that environment is not safe either, she added. 

"I'm sad that no decisions were able to be made for both," said Dilley. "Because no matter what, you know, this virus ain't going to go away." 

"If we stick together, we're going to get through this and hopefully soon, we'll all be able to be back together," said Giddens.

Eide was not convinced. 

"If the school did not think this would affect their funding then they had like almost another thing coming," she said.

Bookey said given the unprecedented challenges caused by the coronavirus, she thinks keeping students home is the best move.

"We're in the middle of a crazy pandemic that we never predicted, nor have any of us really been through, at least in this generation," said Bookey in conclusion. "I really do think the protocol is to keep them at home and I think it's the best, safest option that we have." 

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