The Stresses and Successes of Distance Learning in Connecticut

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Grasping the concept of "distance learning" was difficult for many Connecticut students and teachers, but it certainly has not been easy for parents either. With significant questions about the upcoming school year, families are sharing the challenges and successes they encountered with at-home schooling.

Kelsee Geyer, 8, of Glastonbury, spent the last several months of third grade at home on an iPad.

“Sometimes it’s really difficult to squeeze in lessons and then we get late and it’s all chaos,” Kelsee said.

When Kelsee ran into technology trouble, she would turn to her mother, Penny, for help.

“I’d be in tears and she’d be in tears,” said Penny Geyer.

As a doctoral student and an adjunct college professor, Penny already had a full plate back in March when Kelsee's school suddenly closed.

“We had Spanish, art, music, gym, reading, writing, math and library to deal with,” Penny said. “I definitely still felt like ‘is it just me?’.”

It wasn’t just her.

“It was difficult. It was hard,” said Teresa Horton, who felt the frustration, along with her son, Da-Shawn, 17.

“He was frustrated because he couldn’t be in the school with his friends and it was just driving me crazy,” Teresa said.

Da-Shawn pushed through and graduated from Middletown High School, though, it was bittersweet.

“I felt like I missed out on a big part of my high school career,” Da-Shawn said.

The entire process of transitioning to distance learning has been tough on students, their teachers and their families. If and when the technology did work properly, there was some success some of the time.

In Ansonia, for example, almost 83 percent of parents surveyed by the school district about distance learning said the level of communication from their child’s teacher was “just right.”

When it came to the “amount of distance learning work,” about 73 percent of the 800 parent respondents said it was “just right.”

More than 45 percent of Ansonia parents said their kids were on the computer for remote learning for three to four hours a day.

It was a different story for Katherine Flores’ 14-year-old son, Mason Porras.

“He would get up and do his school work, but it didn’t last very long. So, it was a couple hours and then it led into playing games with his friends,” Flores said. She also worried about students’ lack of social interaction.

“Not having teachers, not having friends. There’s no boost of like - there’s no communication. Like, I can’t talk to anyone,” Porras said.

In East Hartford, the district reported 60 percent of students were “fully participating” in their Distance Learning Plan (DLP). Among the 12 percent who were “not at all participating,” some students had internet issues. Others had parents who were working or had COVID-19 cases in the family, according the district.

Children with special needs may have lost out the most in recent months, said Fatima Horton, who’s 5-year-old son, Zyhier, is on the autism spectrum.

“I kind of feel like it’s going to mess up his progress, the progress that he was doing, because he’s used to routine so now that the routine is gone, it’s making him a little crazy,” said Horton.

With distance learning still a possibility in the next school year, many Connecticut families are taking the summer to try to take a break.

“Ugh, I’m already thinking it’s not going to work,” said Penny Geyer. “It just seems like a nightmare.”

To learn more about how much some Connecticut school districts spent to get students and teachers up and running remotely, click here. 

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