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COVID concerns in the classroom

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | July 16, 2020 1:07 AM

Feelings are mixed about how to go back to school this fall

The first day of school for many North Idaho students is only about eight weeks away.

A lot has happened since classmates last saw each other in person before schools closed in March because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Parents have mixed feelings about how class should resume this fall. Many are concerned that COVID-19 cases are growing, rather than decreasing, and others feel their children are missing out when they can't actually "go" to school.

"I'm not worried about anything," said Post Falls mom Alisha Kreissig, whose four kids are 11, 9, 6 and 5. "Some people are worried about whether or not they're going to have a mask. I would rather my children be able to be free and have fun."

She said the preschool program her daughter attends has a pretty good setup already.

"The adults wear masks," she said. "The children do not, but they sanitize everything and they have good steps in place."

She said she is more concerned kids will regress based on all the fear going around and how their lives have changed through everything.

"I'm more worried about the future than putting more restrictions on," she said.

Sara Lewis, whose daughters are going into first and fourth grades, said she's on the fence about sending her girls back in person.

"I'm waiting to see what happens with the cases and the school's official plan for how they're going to handle reopening," said Lewis, of Post Falls. "We may do online only or we may choose a hybrid program."

She said she would really like to see COVID-19 cases decrease before in-person instruction resumes.

"I'd like to see a clear plan for how the schools are going to handle it if there is a COVID-positive student in the school or in a classroom," she said. "I'd like to see a good plan for how they're going to handle that situation."

Lewis said her key concerns are "obviously health and safety, and slowing the infection rate."

"I know schools can notoriously be germ factories, so keeping all the students and staff safe," she said.

Post Falls mom Alex Inks has kids who are 17, 9 and 8. She said she will be putting her kids in school this fall. She and her fiancé, Chris Venuto, both work in health care and feel the kids have suffered enough.

"When all this started, I feel like we weren't able to give our kids the full time they needed, and they need school to do that," she said, adding that her kids were in the Gap child care program through the lockdown, which provided them with much-needed schoolwork help.

"Four hours a day wasn't feasible with both of us working full time," she said. "I just want my kids to be happy. They need to be there. They need their friends, they need their teachers. Getting education from parents is not as good as getting it from a teacher."

"They need social interaction," Venuto said.

Inks said her biggest concern is her kids' mental health.

"If they don't get to go to school, what's going to happen with their mental health?" she asked. "My kids will wear a mask, they will do all the things as needed, but they need their friends and teachers."

Venuto said kids need to be in school for learning they can't get elsewhere.

"Homeschooling wasn't meant for some parents. Some can do it, but a lot of us can't," he said. "The kids are too comfortable at home, so they won't do their work. When they're at school, they've got that focus. When they go to school and we go to work, it's kind of our break time from each other."

He said he wants schools to be sure to enforce hand washing and sanitization efforts.

"I can understand kids wearing masks, but I don't think they're all going to wear the masks," he said. "They're going to be taking them off."

He's most worried about the loss of education the kids are experiencing not being in class.

"The schools are going to do what they can," he said. "But the kids are more important. They've already missed out on a few months of school. They're not hardly learning anything anymore."

"They're going to feel it until they graduate," Inks said.

Venuto's son, 17-year-old Michael Venuto, said he's all for going in person when school resumes.

"I would definitely go to school," he said. "When you're learning through an iPad, you don't get that same hands-on feeling."

He said he hopes hand sanitizer and gloves are readily available on buses to keep kids safe getting to and from school. His biggest concern is how education overall will be handled.

"It's going to be hard to educate someone in a mask," Michael said. "Some kids have glasses, they're going to have a hard time seeing with a mask on. It will fog up their glasses.

"You can do one-on-ones, but it's going to leave some kids behind," he said.

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Lewis

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Inks

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C. Venuto

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M. Venuto