Traditional vs. online: Marion County parents on the fence about school

District changes reopening plans to allow online students to participate in sports, clubs

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Some parents said the three-week in-school summer program the Marion County School District is starting will help them get a better idea of what school will look like come fall. Others are still very nervous about sending their children back to school, saying the plan is very broad.

"It's not really clear cut. You either send them to school or keep them online. In doing so, you'll lose part of the school. Not just the social, but academic courses," said parent April Russell.

Russell has a 14 year-old son who will be starting high school in August. She said he’s part of a unique AP program that offers specialty courses for JROTC.

“If we pick online they (school district) won’t be able to tell me if they can do that track,” Russell said.

So she said she had to make the difficult decision to enroll him in traditional learning. But not every parent has that option.

“My kids have Alport’s Syndrome so it’s really a rough decision, because I can send them, but if they get this virus it’s a possibility they’ll need a kidney transplant way sooner that what is necessary,” said parent Jill Berry.

Berry has three school-aged children who are more vulnerable to catching the virus. One of her daughters is heartbroken she won’t be able to start the 6th grade with her friends.

“She said, ‘I still want to go, I still want to go.’ I’m like, ‘It’s not worth it. Do you want to be sick? Do you want to be on dialysis?' She said, ‘No but i want to be around my friends,’” Berry said.

The biggest issue for Berry is that face coverings are not required in classrooms, unless students are in situations where they can't socially distance.

The Marion County School District showed News 6 one of the elementary school classrooms and how the setup will be like for the summer term. The desks are spaced out, and each student will be using their own materials.

The district won't have an idea of how many students will be in each class until registration ends. It also changed part of its reopening plan, allowing students who register for online learning to participate in on-campus extracurricular activities like athletics and clubs.

Berry said her kids will be using the online platform at least for the first semester so she can see how the reopening plan is implemented.

“I’m not excited about doing home school again. I have high-risk kids. I’d rather do common core math and hate life than deal with a child on dialysis,” Berry said.

As a reminder, parents in Marion County have until July 22 to make a decision on how their children will move forward with school starting in August.

Parents can also change their choice after the first 9-week grading period ends.

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