OKEECHOBEE — Ahead of the Aug. 17 start date for schools in Okeechobee, parents were faced with the unenviable dilemma of figuring what school option was best for their children.
Of the nearly 6,000 kids now registered for school, 3,088 chose option one, which is a return to traditional face-to-face instruction with additional safety measures.
Okeechobee resident Autumn Town’s daughter is entering first grade this year and will be one of those utilizing face-to-face instruction.
“I chose to do in-person schooling because my daughter does better learning from someone who isn’t me,” said Town of her decision. “She needs the environment where everyone else is also working while she is. She gets so distracted by everything around her. It was a constant fight to get work done during the last part of the last school year that I worried it would be too much for her and myself — on top of living in an area where internet service isn’t reliable, making the other two options not really an option.”
Linda Ashby will also be sending her high schooler, Aaron, back to a more traditional setting. But the younger kids in her family will be learning virtually.
“Aaron is going to school because he feels he learns better doing face to face with a teacher,” explained Ashby. “The rest of them are doing virtual option three. We feel it is too much to put on them with all the new rules like masks, no hugs, and social distancing. Basically we just want to wait and see how things play out for the first semester, then we will reconsider.”
For others, their child’s individual needs make choosing option one a no-go for the first part of the school year.
“My oldest who has special needs is supposed to be going to middle school this year and starting in regular classes for the first time,” said Victoria Duke. “And between the change of new schools, a new schedule, and the changes they are trying to make to compensate for this virus, I am having to stay at home because of it. The beginning of this year is going to be a complete mess as they try to figure out how to make everything work. Which is no one’s fault because who could’ve ever predicted life would be like this? But he would be overstimulated due to all the changes. My other daughter is going into fourth grade and has ADHD. It’s hard enough to get her to pay attention, let alone wear a mask for so long. So I am staying home with her as well. There’s too much uncertainty about how things will work, and there’s way too many unanswered questions.”
Over 1,400 students chose option two, which has students follow along live with their classes online in an option called Okeechobee Sync. And another 1,400 chose option three and will attend Okeechobee Virtual School.