GOSHEN COUNTY – After weeks of discussion between Goshen County School District No. 1 parents and school board members, 150 students have opted to learn outside the physical classroom this semester as of Aug. 14, according to GCSD Director of Curriculum Donna Fields.
This number is fluid, there is no deadline and parents have the option of pulling their children out of in-person classes to continue the semester virtually, and vice versa, according to Superintendent Ryan Kramer.
“If a family finds virtual learning is not working for them, they would be able to change their plans,” Kramer said.
According to GCSD’s smart start plan, education options include in-person learning, remote education, classroom-based virtual education, virtual education or homeschool. Thus far, 85 K-12 students will learn via the virtual model and 65 will be homeschooled, Fields said.
Christi Husted opted for virtual education through Edmentum, GCSD’s program, for her three school-aged children who have attended Torrington schools in years past.
Before students returned to classes on Tuesday, Husted said she was not sure what virtual education for her senior, sophomore and fourth grader would entail. Still, she considers it a better option for her family, because her oldest child is immunocompromised and her youngest is not able to wear a mask for a long period of time. With her other two children enrolled in virtual learning, she said her sophomore ultimately decided to do the same.
“It was not an easy choice for us,” Husted said. “But they were all for it. For health reasons and because we’re afraid when you can’t social distance you have to have a mask, and that’s going to be 90% of the time because the schools are so big.”
Husted said the “not knowing” also contributed to their decision. GCSD will begin the school year in tier one of three, meaning all students will attend class in-person five days per week, adhering to social distancing measures and wearing masks in communal areas, such as busses and hallways. But how long the district will remain in this tier is uncertain.
“It’s crazy, everything all the kids are going to have to do,” Husted said.
Husted was one of many concerned parents in the district making difficult decisions days before the 2020-21 school year. Another is Sharlet Duffy of Lingle, who facilitates a Facebook page titled “Goshen County Concerned Parents.”
Duffy and other members of the group are concerned about the prospect of their children wearing masks and social distancing throughout the school day. However, Duffy said she acknowledges the school board is working hard to make tough decisions and is at the will of the state.
“The district has to follow the governor’s orders,” Duffy said. “Originally, I felt like [my husband and I] were the only ones that didn’t feel like masks should be mandatory. Then I got to talking with people and I found that there are more. It’s just a way to make it known that there are some people that want to go back as normally as possible.”
Despite involvement in petitioning the school board to relax COVID-19 restrictions, Duffy decided to homeschool her second-grader and her kindergartener through a program called Abeka.
Though she and her husband are advocates for public school, Duffy said she feels this semester will not be conducive for its greatest benefits, like socialization.
“I had read articles about the side effects and possible complications that come with masks,” Duffy said. “Through all the conversations with the district, we got more concerned about the consistency of the education. I think the district’s going to try really hard, but we were concerned about the different tiers and the kids possibly being in school and then they’re out of school.”
When education was interrupted at the outset of the coronavirus in March, finishing the school year remotely was difficult for her young child, she said.
“Mentally it was really hard on my second grader leaving for a long weekend and then never going back and seeing her friends,” Duffy said. “So it started out with the masks, but then it kind of turned into more. We just want something consistent.”
Both women stay home with their children during the day but facilitating their education will be a new feat. Husted said her children will complete assignments asynchronously on school-issued computers, whereas Duffy will have a curriculum shipped to her home in Lingle.
“I’m overwhelmed, but the older two can kind of do it themselves, so it’ll mostly be my fourth grader,” Husted said. “I mostly stay at home and do my own thing, so it won’t be too hard for me.”
Both Duffy and Husted said they will reevaluate in December and potentially send their children back into the physical classroom for the spring semester.
“I feel that in-person learning is a better option, but with everything going on right now, keeping them home for the first semester is best,” Husted said.