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“A lot of kids in my children’s school have gone back to school in person at this point, but I’m just not comfortable sending my kids back yet. The problem is, now that it’s a much smaller group of kids who are fully remote, it feels like they are getting a far inferior school experience, and no one is really focused on meeting their needs. I’m also interested in sending my children for a few specific in-person activities, like the school’s SAT prep course; those seem a bit safer, because they will be smaller groups of students, and I don’t think practice testing is as effective at home. But I’m worried that the school may try to force us to come back fully in-person if I do this. How can I advocate for my remote learners to get the best experience possible when so many families are now sending their children back in person?”

Anxious in Atlanta

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Elysa Severinghaus

Elysa Severinghaus brings more than a decade of experience in instructional and operational roles to EdNavigator, where she serves as Executive Director in Boston. A former middle school teacher, Elysa speaks Spanish and French and lives in Roslindale with an exceptionally cute canine roommate.

Dear Anxious,

There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s tackle the second part of your question first: Can you send your children back for some isolated in-person activities, even if you’ve opted for fully remote learning? This is going to depend on your school or district. Many places are requiring families to choose one model and stick to it, at least for a set time period. (For example, some districts have asked families to choose a model from now until the end of December, at which point families will be able to reassess.) In that case, you might not have a choice about this—it’s all or nothing.

If your school does allow you to go “a la carte,” if you will, then the choice is yours, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to send your children to in-person school just because you’ve opted for a single extracurricular opportunity. (By the way, take a look at Khan Academy for some really top-notch SAT prep that your child can do from home. Khan features a diagnostic tool that allows your student to target their areas for improvement and provides practice problems to help them do so.)

The other part of your question is a little more complicated. How do you make sure your children are getting the best educational experience possible through remote learning, even while most students have returned to school in person? First, it would be helpful to get clear on the bar here. Were there expectations around structures for remote learning that were set at the beginning of the year when more kids were remote? What worked well during that period? Do those things feel like they’ve lagged recently? If so, document the things that were in place and are now falling short. Share your observations with the teacher, and ask to reset expectations to ensure your kids are learning.

In the current environment, if you’ve been given the option to keep your children enrolled in fully remote learning, it doesn’t matter why you want to do so—they have the right to an education regardless. When you ask to receive the instruction that was promised at the start of the year, you’re not asking for anything extra.

“In the current environment, if you’ve been given the option to keep your children enrolled in fully remote learning, it doesn’t matter why you want to do so—they have the right to an education regardless.”