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Study says just over half of parents want kids in classroom, but SWFL parents say not over safety

July 10 is the deadline to decide whether you will send your kids into a classroom or sign them up for online learning in The School District of Lee County. Parents know the challenges that come with that decision.

A new study by Gallup finds 56% of parents who participated want their child to go back to school come August.

MORE: Parents Slightly Favor Full-Time, In-Person School This Fall

And, when we surveyed more than 1,000 parents, students and teachers locally, a large majority told us they preferred their kids learn in school.

Survey Results: Back to School in Southwest Florida in the COVID-19 Era

But many of those same parents will choose distance learning again in August because safety trumps everything else.

Only in third grade, Keelyn already knows a lot about hard work, her mom explained.

“She has a chromosome deformity,” said Ashley Bonday, Keelyn’s mother. “She’s way behind age wise.”

Bonday says Keelyn’s teachers in the classroom have been a godsend. She says virtual learning for Keelyn won’t be the same.

“It’s impossible. It just does not work,” Bonday said. “There’s tears constantly, and I didn’t go to school to be a teacher. So I can’t really help in general, let alone a student that is special-ed.”

Keelyn’s mom is not alone. Parents all over Southwest Florida are still recovering from suddenly becoming teachers toward the end of last school year. And the prospect of doing it again is not inviting to many.

“I still to this day have no idea how to help my son in math or my daughter,” said Kim Hale, a Treeline Elementary parent. “And I love math.

“And then to try to teach a child when none of us really know how to use a Chromebook,” Bonday said.

Parents have to decide whether it’s school or safety first.

“I’ve only got one child, quite possibly might not have another,” said Christine Fuller, a parent with a child in fourth grade. “So I’m going to do whatever it takes.”

Fuller in Collier County will keep her child home.

And that’s even if it means giving up her job.

“I had to make a choice between my career and my child,” Fuller said. “And no parent should ever have to do that.”

Back in Lee County, Bonday and Hale will send their kids back to school.

“We weren’t trained to do this,” Bonday said. “Now, we gotta take that on, and it’s just not working.”

“Most kids don’t want to have their parents as their teachers,” Hale said.

The Common Sense study also said a third of kids don’t have adequate technology or internet access to keep up.

School district are trying to keep up with that. The Charlotte County School Board just announced every student will receive a laptop or Chromebook this year. Lee County tried to do the same, but parents say part of the battle is learning how to use the technology.

TAKE THE SURVEY: We’ve kept the survey open so you can have your say, too

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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