Some working parents panicking, trying to balance careers and kids’ virtual learning

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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — The slow crawl to the start of fall classes seems like a sprint to many working parents who don’t know how they’re going to take care of their children learning at home.

Many working parents are now at a loss about what to do since classes look to be virtual in some districts for the first part of the year. Making that worse, school districts haven’t released solid plans with less than a month to go before classes start.

“It was panic. I was furious actually,” said LauralLee O’Bannon whose six-year-old daughter will be a first grader in the Raytown School District. 

Raytown is mandating virtual school until at least the end of October.

O’Bannon and her husband both work full-time, and one of them quitting to be home with their daughter is not a possibility.

“You legally can’t leave elementary kids at home,” O’Bannon said. “My husband is self-employed. He’s the bread winner, but I carry the insurance so both of us have to work.”

“I know of friends and colleagues who are having to make decisions about their career,” she added.

Tami Radohl has a different but just as serious concern. Her sixth-grade son in the special needs program in the Olathe School District. Not knowing the plan for this upcoming school year is not only a stress for her but also her son. 

“So many kids with special needs need structure and expectations, and without that it causes so much anxiety,” Radohl said.

Radohl’s son has an IEP that the district is legally obliged to fulfill, but she has contacted the school district in every way possible and has not heard anything back.

So she took matters into her own hands, hired a para-educator and is keeping him home.

“We are very frustrated with the whole situation all the way around and the positions parents have been put in,” Radohl said.

The Olathe School District sent a statement about the districts IEP program. 

“The Olathe Public Schools supports our students with disabilities by partnering with families and school teams to honor and follow a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). 

“As we reach the start of the 2020-21 school year, IEPs will continue to serve as the guiding document for special education services and accommodations and modifications. The full continuum of services will be available for students choosing to attend in-person

“Those choosing remote learning offered by Olathe Public Schools will be supported in that learning model to the maximum extent possible. IEP teams, consisting of families and building staff, may need to convene to make specific decisions for individual student needs during this time.”

Radohl is still waiting for that communication.

Heather Johntz and Jamie Berg are moms of Pembroke Hill students. In January, they started StudyLab, an after school tutoring program that lasted just two months before the shutdown.

They became tutors of their own kids during the spring virtual learning. 

“It was hard to work and cook meals and be the teacher,” Johntz said. “It was hard to do all of that, so we’re hoping maybe we can help balance that out until the need to have homeschooling goes away.”

When StudyLab opened back up, the co-owners morphed their business model so that besides after-school tutoring, StudyLab is now a place where education students in college will monitor and support virtual learning during the day for students in the Shawnee Mission School District.

“It’s still supporting the same population, students that need support,” Johntz said. “It’s just an additional service that we recognize. At least for this moment in time our students can really benefit from this.”

To contact StudyLab, click here.

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