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Chaos, fear and doubt: Two weeks in, Detroit parents question tough choices about school

Metro Charter Academy
the Detroit Public Schools Community District
Belleville High School

Jonah Beasley
Peggy Carr-McMichael
Geneva Johnson
Marva Walker
Chrystal Wilson
Nikolai Vitti
Chalkbeat Detroit
Benjamin Carson High



Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School


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The New York Times
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"I just hope people don't send their kids to school sick."With the Covid-19 pandemic still spreading around the country, parents everywhere have had to make impossible choices this school year, weighing the health of their families against significant consequences for children who lose ground in school.The stakes of those choices are particularly high for students with special needs, like Jonah, and for children in cities like Detroit, where the vast majority of families are Black or Hispanic — communities that have been pummeled by the nation's highest Covid-19 death rates and by the legacy of struggling, under-resourced schools that have long made it harder for their children to succeed.Even as classes have begun and as families have started to adapt to the challenges of this unusual school year, many parents who live in and near cities like this one are continuing to second-guess the decisions they made.NBC News began following several Detroit-area parents during the final weeks of summer as they weighed their options for school.Among them was Carr-McMichael, who, in addition to Jonah and his younger brother, has two high schoolers going into the classroom five days a week.Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreakAnother mom, Geneva Johnson, decided that online instruction was the safest choice for her four children — but she made it through only four chaotic hours before messaging her children's counselor with an urgent plea to change her mind.A third mom, Marva Walker, has so far stuck with her decision to keep her three daughters in virtual classrooms. She worried about people in her family, including Riley, who has asthma.When she learned that schools in Detroit's main district planned to allow as many as 20 students in a classroom, she decided to keep her kids home."They're not going to be able to keep them away from each other," she said a week before classes began. In addition to Riley, she has three others at home: Erron, a second grader; Elijah, an eighth grader; and Jaliyah, a high school freshman.She dressed the younger two in their yellow school uniform shirts, even though the school didn't require them."I wanted them to be ready," she said, "to know 'this is what I have to do to be ready for school, whether I'm going out of the house or not.'"But her plans were thrown into turmoil by a robocall telling her she needed to come to her children's schools to get books and materials. It took visits to four different schools and temperature checks at four different doors to get the right books from the right schools."This is the first day of school blues for real!" she said as she drove through the steady rain that drenched the city that morning.By the time Johnson swept through the door of her family's bungalow, it was nearly 10 a.m. and her children were two hours late for school.This site is protected by recaptcha Privacy Policy | Terms of ServiceShe quickly got to work, handing Jaliyah the books and logons she needed to access her classes, then trying to fire up the three laptops she'd lined up on a desk for her sons. She wanted her daughters to see her commitment to education and hopes to earn a social work degree, then work in schools, giving kids the support she needed as a child.Her experience weighed on her as she considered options for her daughters this year, said Walker, who lives a few blocks from Johnson and also has children in the city's main district. "I might be too worried about kids' being sick or standing by me or students' not wearing a mask."By the second week of school, the technical problems hadn't gotten any better, Walker said, but teachers had at least become more accommodating."We'll see how the next week goes to determine if we can handle it a little longer," she said.At Johnson's house, no one regrets pulling the plug on online learning for the boys.Johnson's daughter, Jaliyah, is still running into technical glitches with her online high school classes, but at least she now has the house to herself."Nobody's trying to talk to me while I'm doing it," Jaliyah said.The school bus now comes every morning for Riley, Erron and Elijah, and Johnson has made peace with her fears about the virus.So few parents in the boys' school chose the in-person option that Riley has only eight students in his class, she said.

As said here by Erin Einhorn