Natalie Cedor’s living room transformed into an elementary, middle and high school on Aug. 17.
Though her three boys– fifth-grader Stefan, seventh-grader Jaeden and 11th-grader Devon — may all be in the same room, the schedules for each of them are different, but Cedor said her children have been surprisingly self regulated in their work.
“In the spring, there wasn’t as much structure,” said Cedor, whose children are in Fulton County School System. “Now it’s more structured and there’s more weight for the kids’ performance, so a little bit more stress for me.”
Cedor and other parents in the Fulton, DeKalb and Atlanta public school systems have had to adjust to having their children home as the districts started at least the first month of classes with virtual learning. Some parents are pooling resources for home-schooling; others get assistance from community nonprofits. All are adapting.
With a summer to prepare, teachers and administrators have created more defined schedules for the students than the emergency closures in the spring allowed, so many parents have to juggle their own work and their children’s schooling as the fall semester kicks off.
Cedor created work spaces and schedules for her children to help them stay on track. She helps them set up at their desks at 8 a.m. to allow for some time to log into programs. She said they didn’t have many technical problems in the first week.
“The major issue of the day, to be honest with you, is food,” Cedor said. “I have three boys. They eat a lot, and because there’s access to food, these kids want to eat all day, constantly.”
Cedor said she works from home, so sometimes she also has to remind them to ask their teachers questions instead of running upstairs to get her. Her children not being able to interact with their peers has also been an issue, Cedor said.
For her fifth-grader Stefan, Cedor said she’s considering sending him to the YMCA once a week, where staff members there help facilitate virtual learning with small groups of students and do activities with them after the school day is over. Her 11th-grader Devon has high-functioning autism, and Cedor said he needs the emotional and social interactions of the classroom setting.
“Being home with his brothers is not helping him,” Cedor said. “He’s going to mature, and these are the skills I need him to learn, but he can’t learn it because he’s not in that environment.”
Marissa Evans, whose daughter Elise is in third grade at Dunwoody Elementary School, said she teamed up with three other families in her daughter’s class to create a teaching pod for their children. DeKalb County School District started classes on Aug. 17.
“The kids can continue to grow in a learning environment while still maintaining safety,” Evans said.
The families hired a certified teacher who was planning on getting a job in a metro Atlanta school district until it went on a hiring freeze. They chose one of the houses as the “classroom” for the students. Evans said she’s felt fortunate she’s able to help her daughter learn through that way.
“We all learned in the ’80s and ’90s very differently than how the kids are learning today,” Evans said. “What we know sometimes isn’t even helpful, and we’ll have to Google it anyway.”
Gabriela Duran, whose four children are in the Cross Keys cluster in DeKalb County School District, said virtual learning has been hardest for her youngest children. Kevin and Derek, who are in kindergarten, have to use her computer because the district did not give them devices.
Duran also works on her computer, so she uses it when the children are done with school. She said teachers have also started to request they print out materials, and she doesn’t have a printer at home.
Her older children, Axel and Mischa, are at Sequoyah Middle School and have their own devices from the school.
“I haven’t been having a problem,” Duran said about helping her children with virtual learning. “But I feel for my community, and families who are having a lot of trouble with that.”
Duran works with families to help with virtual learning through Los Vecinos de Buford Highway, a nonprofit that aims to help families on Buford Highway.
Duran said Los Vecinos set up WhatsApp group chats for parents based on the schools their children attend. They also hold Thursday classes to help people learn the different virtual platforms and create video tutorials.
“We have too many people who can’t speak English or people who can’t read,” Duran said. “We try to make videos so people understand what’s happening in the schools.”
Wade Morris, a parent of two Garden Hill Elementary students in Atlanta Public Schools, said he’s been impressed by the teachers and administrators as the students prepared to go back on Aug. 24. He said they didn’t have any technology issues after the first day.
Morris said he and his wife both have flexible work schedules, so they’re able to help their first grader Annie and third grader Jane. Their youngest, Eliza, is in pre-K.
“One of us has to be sitting next to the 4 year old at all times, and the other one has to be keeping an ear out for the 6 year old,” Morris said.
APS has done a great job with getting supplies to students and communicating about how virtual learning will work, Morris said.