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Do Kids Have To Do Distance Learning? Experts Explain What It Really Means

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I am struggling. Every day is a new lesson in the horrors of trying to work while also attempting to teach my two children. I feel like I'm failing at both — and my kids are miserable. There are tons of memes and "encouraging" posts out there that talk about skipping the work or pulling your kids out of distance learning, but is that even an option?

Unfortunately, there is no universal answer, as it varies by state and even by district. Beyond the matter of regulations, the situation in which we find ourselves is completely unprecedented, which means that we simply don't know what schooling will look like next year as we face an uncertain future. Will there be another round of quarantine? Or will this period of social distancing last for several months as Business Insider reported? States across the country are grappling with how they will grade, how they will determine attendance, and how children will continue to be educated through these strange times. We don't know how this period will affect standards and procedures moving forward, therefore figuring out the ramifications for ending your child's school year early is somewhat difficult to determine.

Violet Wood, a third grade teacher in Atlanta, tells Romper that her district is just focusing on building compassion and empathy with their families. Because teachers can't make sure every student has the same opportunities to learn, her district's distance learning can only improve a student's grade — skipping it won't be detrimental or pull their average down. If a student was already in a tough spot, their current standings will be what pushes them to the next grade level or holds them back next year. If a student was in a tough spot, but completes their distance learning, it could pull their grades up to move forward next year.

"We reach out, encourage, but parents were given an option to opt-out and take the grades they had at the end of quarter three," Wood tells me. "Every year we have students who are behind, and as a teacher we will meet them where they are and adapt."

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Lisa Mitchell, the Library Media Specialist for the Oregon Trail School District, tells Romper that this isn't the case everywhere.

"If a child is pulled from distance learning in Oregon, the parent must report the withdrawal to the local Education Service District (ESD) within 10 days of the withdrawal," she says. But then you'll be doing all of your own learning at home, which means pulling your own curriculum and just skipping all the Zoom meetings. Is that any better?

Mitchell also adds, "According to the guidelines set forth by the Oregon Department of Education, 'All of Oregon’s districts will assign Pass/Incomplete to students for any coursework completed during the COVID-19 school closure.'" The state will also provide "multiple credit options," but if a student withdraws from distance learning and doesn't register with the ESD for alternate home learning, they could be held back.

Where I live in New York City, the information about how we're supposed to educate our children and how this will impact their educational career has been slow, and the signals have been mixed at best. For instance, my daughter's elementary school sent out a message via Class Dojo that essentially said, "Don't worry about it so much, we'll catch them up in the fall." At the same time, they're stressing that the children must log onto MyOn every day to determine attendance. My son's middle school, in the same district, is still sending out grades through their app, still holding classes through Google, and if he misses an assignment, I get a text message. It's enough stress to make you want to pull your hair out.

Just today, my state senator sent out a Google Doc to gauge his constituents' thoughts about grading policy and procedure for the rest of the year, and while I appreciate being able to give my input, I feel like I'm holding on by a thread. My daughter is irascible about completing her assignments, my son is confused. And I get it, I do. Personally, I have never felt more stuck, both mentally and physically. My emotions are all over the place, and my normally creative mind seems to be stunted and unsteady. If I am feeling this way as an adult who has the knowledge and experience to understand what is happening (at least on some level), then I can only imagine how hard it is for a child who does not.

Basically, there's no great way to just "stop" the school year. Depending on your district, you can only shift the manner of learning or take a grade from an earlier the year as your child's final average. Regardless of your district's offerings, there are a ton of free resources available for online learning, but in all honesty, that's just a different version of distance learning.

As for me, I am seconds away from chucking the school year in the bucket, making my kids do Khan Academy math and then, I don't know, some interpretive dancing? Watch Animal Planet? At this point, I really just need a minute, and I know I'm not the only one.