Educational K-12 Options During COVID

Summer is here, but many parents’ minds are still focused on education.  We have no idea what to expect, and yet, we’re expected to make our children’s 20-21 educational decisions now.

Please use this page as a starting point only. All content is informational only and not intended to replace legal or professional advice. The value of this information will vary by family. Please reach out to me if you have any questions, concerns or updates you’d like to share.

It’s essential to keep the following in mind:

  1. This information is GENERIC only.  Not only is research on COVID new, the information is constantly changing. Our COVID status (the # of cases, the phases, and restrictions) is continuously changing. Indeed, in the single day between starting this article and placing it live, the governor mandated masks in public will be enforced by a hefty fine.
  2. Our educators are also limited. They’re trying to navigate the ever-changing conditions and restrictions.
  3. Most districts are still working on their version of a safe, effective educational plan.
  4. As long as they are compliant, each district has room to develop their own program(s), another reason this information remains broad.
  5. Restrictions and will constantly change depending on the current pandemic stage. Educational plans will continue to adjust throughout the year. It’s a simple reality of the times.
  6. Some changes will be welcome; some will not. Your best support will come from preplanning, alternative plans and flexibility.
  7. If you’re struggling from the anxiety of the unknown, send me a message and we will look at opportunities to support various plans and ensure the best state-of-mind

Your Public School of Choice:

A reminder this content, while well-researched, is from a wide perspective (generic) in scope. 

  1. We have several public schools in the nearby vicinity to choose from including your assigned district, charter schools, and schools of choice.
  2. Each school has the opportunity to choose how they navigate the required and recommended restrictions.
  3. Restrictions and recommendations will constantly change depending on the current pandemic stage.
  4. While many schools have their plan in place, others are diligently working to establish the best course of action as the governor’s recent mandates were announced just last week.

Pros:

  • Traditional classroom learning
  • Direct live interaction with teachers
  • Stronger connections with teachers (they’ll get to know your student in person, and more likely to properly assess needs, struggles, etc.) 
  • Peer connections and support (albeit different with safety measures in place)
  • Peer/Group programs and projects (electives, labs, group projects) with safety measures in place 
  • Classes are led by a certified teacher
  • Minimal disruptions to current resources and educational plans (IEPs, resource rooms, paras, free/reduced lunches, counselors and social workers, etc.,). Of course, safety measures will alter how these services will be offered, but they’ll still be accessible. 
  • Access to laptops, internet connectivity while at school
  • Consistently scheduled classes
  • In general, parents can count on their children being in class at specific times
  • This is true with blended programs (alternating in-class and at-home learning), but parents will know the schedule ahead of time)
  • Many children will emotionally benefit returning to a familiar and consistent platform (even with the restrictions)
  • Most children will benefit significantly from social interactions, particularly young students, as social interaction is a crucial life lesson. 
  • Parents will remain an important part of their child’s overall success but can turn the learning back to trained educators 
  • Financials are public, transparency is mandated (some online public schools are run by private companies)
  • Class sizes are likely to be smaller than they have been in a long time
Cons:
  • Increased potential for COVID exposure 
  • Restrictions may make students uncomfortable (masks).
  • Restrictions may be difficult to enforce (handwashing, not touching the face, social distancing) 
  • The potential for another significant schedule disruption may occur at any time  (an outbreak, changing restrictions, snow days).
  • Schools will run on a limited budget with expenses going toward protective measures and increased requirements 
  • Neutral:

    • Access to specific classes, electives, connecting with classmates will vary by school 
    • School will look and feel differently
    • Depending on the pandemic phase, sports and activities will look and feel different as well. Yet, students will have easier access to these activities (and stronger connections to classmates) when enrolled with the public school (compared to signing up from an online program or homeschooling program)
    • School programs and policies will vary by district 
    • Parents’ access to the school will be significantly limited compared to normal times.
    • The American Academy of Pediatrics has publicly recommended students’ return to in-classroom learning; although this could change at any point.

    Be Aware:

    • As noted, the pandemic phases will change these options. The good news is: our public schools are far more prepared to handle these changes than they were when schools shut down in March.  
    • If your school has implemented an online alternative, the transition to virtual learning in an emergency situation should be relatively smooth.
    • The pandemic transmission is unknown and thus unpredictable. Teachers and staff are just as concerned as parents and will work hard to protect the environment.
    Questions/Considerations:

     

    Safety Concerns:

    • Is your public school offering a virtual option?  If so, this may be a reasonable solution, ensuring increased safety, while maintaining your child’s current connections. If so, you’ll want to review the virtual schools’ section.
    • What are your personal concerns/thoughts related to COVID and exposure/safety?
    • Do you, your child, family members or friends have health concerns that make COVID even more of a concern? (Health risks, age, etc.) 
    • If your anxiety or health concerns or your child’s, will be significantly affected in an in-person environment, an alternative to in-person learning may be best.

     

    Restriction Concerns:

    • Will your child struggle to maintain/follow the guidelines?
    • If so, what steps can you take now to support your child’s ability to follow the guidelines?
    • Are you concerned other students/staff won’t follow the guidelines?
    • Are they too strict; not strict enough or just right?
    • Are you concerned the guidelines will interfere with learning?
    • Will you/your child be able to keep up with the guidelines (having enough masks, washing the masks, not losing the masks, etc.)
    • Are you personally against the restrictions or have a strong conviction against them?  If your answer is yes, it will be best to choose an alternative rather than negate the restrictions at the school. Like it or not, it will place unnecessary stress on your child, as he/she battles policies in the school on his/her own. It will affect your child’s education. Yes, even strong children who agree with your goals.

     

    Family Considerations:

    • Is in-class learning more conducive to your family’s scheduling needs? Is it feasible to have someone home with your child all day? If not, reach out to me and we will look for options or potential connections.

    Your Child(ren):

    • Will your child benefit significantly if he/she returns to the classroom? 
    • Will your child benefit emotionally or socially if he/she returns to the classroom?
    • Which alternative: in class, homeschool or online will offer your child the best educational outcome?
    Alternative Schooling Questions:

     

    Equipment/Costs/Space:

    • Do you have access to the appropriate equipment or can you get access?
    • Do you have the funds that may be necessary for items the school does not cover (ex: internet service). Homeschoolers are responsible for all costs. 
    • Do you have space for quiet learning? 
    • Do you have space to store books and supplies?

    Availability/Participation:

    • Will the schooling option require you to be home with your child, and if so is that feasible?
    • Your child will require significant oversight on your end. Full oversight if you are homeschooling – unless you hire someone. Are you comfortable with that? And do you have the flexibility?
    • Do you prefer full (or at least more) control over your child’s studies? 
    • Are you willing/able to help your child establish a routine/schedule? And enforce it? 
    • Are you able to enforce/ensure your student is reaching all educational goals?

    Parental Concerns:

    • Does additional screen time (for virtual learning) concern you? (specialists do not consider online learning negative screen time)
    • What are your plans to ensure your child still maintains plenty of peer interaction?
    • Would your child benefit from being away from the public school?  (ex. your child has been bullied or feels unsafe, uncomfortable at his/her current school)
    • What are your concerns about online schooling/homeschooling? How can you address them?
    • Does your child have special needs or a current educational plan? If so, will online schooling/homeschooling support your child more? the same? or less? 
    • Regarding the above question: if your student needs additional support, where will you get the support from? (ex. your efforts, local resources, a homeschool group,  your current public school?

    Student/Family Needs:

    • Does your family currently rely on available resources from the school? (ex. reduced or free lunches, before or after-school care, sports, IEPs, clubs or activities) 
    • If you answered yes to any of the above, be sure to ask what resources will still be available and how you will access them? Will the accommodations still fit into your schedule? (ex. will you have to drive to the school each morning for breakfast?) 
    • Special rules may apply regarding homeschool/virtual school status. Be sure to check with both the virtual school or homeschool association AND your assigned public school.

    The Future:

    • How long do you plan to utilize this alternative option? Until the pandemic is over? Indefinitely? Or will you change mid-year if it’s not working?  Be sure to find out what your options are before you enlist your student. 
    • Questions to ask related to above: Can I remove my child mid-year if necessary? Will there be costs associated with moving my child in/out of the program mid-year?  Will the public school or an alternative school have openings mid-year or even next year? What requirements are needed to transfer my student? 
    • Do NOT miss this opportunity – even if you choose to pull your child out of these activities during the pandemic. We do not know how long the pandemic concerns will last. Planning now will help you prepare and put your mind at ease regardless of the future.

    What Does Your Child Have to Say? 

    • How does your student feel about the options? 
    • If you are open to more than one option, it’s a good idea to get input from your children.Questions to consider:
      “Would you feel comfortable wearing a mask all day?”
      “What can we do now that will make you more comfortable wearing a mask?”
      “Would you like to practice what you can say to a friend who forgets to stay 6 feet away?”
      “Will you be able to concentrate in school with the restrictions/mask on?”
      “If you’re not comfortable with the restrictions, we need to come up with an alternative. What information will help you?”


    Virtual K-12 outside of your district

    While many readers (such as those in the Huron Valley School District) may have the opportunity to enroll their children in a virtual version WITHIN their school district.  There are many benefits to this, including all the benefits found here in the “Pros” section. Plus many additional options, including the proximity to and familiarity with their community. Children are more likely to be in class with familiar friends, with familiar teachers or teachers they will have the opportunity to connect with in-person when restrictions lift. It will also be easier to attend (again, depending on restrictions) and participate in your districts’ available resources, sports teams and extra-curriculum activities. Plus, if you plan to allow your child to return to school in the future, the transition may be easier.  Last, and just as essential, it will also enable your home school to retain government funding that is based on headcounts.

    However, some families are not comfortable working within their current district. Some parents feel more comfortable enrolling their child with an established program. Others may not be satisfied with their current district.  Thus the following tabs are slightly skewed toward outside alternatives.  See “Local” tab if your school district is offering virtual programming.



    Pros:

    • Flexible location
    • Generally, a more flexible schedule, although some programs have regimented schedules 
    • Virtual public schools are free* but just like traditional schools additional costs may apply  
    • No COVID contact 
    • Classes are led by a certified teacher*
    • Minimal/no spontaneous schedule disruptions (snow days, phase disruptions)
    • More flexibility to take classes that match your child’s level vs. students all moving at the same pace
    • Potentially safer environment (no in-school violence, drug exposure)
    • Established online schools should equate to established programs, trained staff, etc., 
    • A good online program will blend online learning with traditional methods (reading, handouts, opportunities to connect/work online with other students, and with teachers for one-on-one support
    Cons:

    • No in-person contact with teachers or educators
    • No in-person contact with classmates/peers
    • Requires access and equipment: computer/laptop and an internet connection
    • Possible technology disruptions
    • Students will be home all day. Younger children will require supervision
    • Students must be motivated
    • Many students (ex. younger children, new students, and procrastinators) will require a higher level of parental oversight
    • Some activities are simply not achievable online, or offer the same experience available in a classroom (gym, certain science experiments,etc.) 

    Neutral:

    • Access to specific classes, electives, and opportunities to connect will vary by school
    • Some families believe students need a disciplined personality to be an online learner; others state online education has been instrumental in creating a disciplined student
    • Some schools offer plenty of opportunities for students to connect, including field trips (obviously not during COVID), but you’re fully responsible for the transportation regardless of the distance
    Be Aware:

    • * Some online “public schools” are run by private for-profit companies. These companies are not required to be financially transparent. Public schools are.  Also, for-profits may/may not invest heavily in resources (staff, equipment, classroom needs, etc). Be diligent when seeking out any virtual program. 
    • If you choose a virtual school, you might still have access to your designated public school when it comes to electives, special needs and sports participation.
    • Some additional costs may apply to virtual courses that would have been free at a public school (example: advanced classes)

    Routines and schedules are still essential. Be sure to implement some form of standard routine.

    Local Virtual:
    Is your school district offering virtual programming?  Here is your potential list:


     Pros:

    • Your district is likely to provide much of what your child needs to attend school.
    • Children are likely to be in class with children they know
    • Returning children are likely to be familiar with their teacher
    • Students are more likely to have opportunities to meet their teacher in-person if restrictions lift or by attending in-person programs that meet the restrictions.
    • If you’re considering returning your child to the traditional classroom (after restrictions lift or if virtual isn’t working for your child) the transition is likely to be more comfortable.
    • You and your child will find it easier to access, utilize and attend school-related resources and programs including educational support, social workers and counselors, sports and other activities
    • Government funding will stay in your district.

    Potential Cons: 

    • The program may be too new for your comfort level
    • You may be ready to leave the district

    Questions/Considerations:

    Parental Resources:

    • Are you prepared to do the initial research related to the best online program? Ask for referrals. 
    • Do you have access to the appropriate equipment or can you get access?
    • Do you have the funds that may be necessary for items the school does not cover (ex: internet service) 
    • Will online schooling require you to be home with your child, and if so is that feasible?

    Parental Involvement/Requirements:

    • Will your child require significant oversight on your end. If so, are you comfortable with that? And do you have the flexibility?
    • Are you willing/able to help your child establish a routine/schedule? And enforce it? 
    • Are you able to enforce/ensure your student is reaching the educational goals? (You would still need to do this if your child was in a classroom setting, but online schooling may require more oversight depending on the student)

    Online/Technology Usage:

    • How do you feel about your child learning online?
    • Does the additional screen time concern you? (specialist do not consider online learning negative screen time)
    • Do screens irritate your child (cause eye irritation, headaches? (FYI: affordable glasses that reduce glare may help)

    Socialization/Parental Concerns:

    • What are your plans to ensure your child still maintains plenty of peer interaction?
    • Would your child benefit from being away from the public school (ex. your child has been bullied or feels unsafe, uncomfortable at his/her current school)
    • What are your concerns about online schooling? How can you address them?

    Your Child’s Needs/Requirements:

    • Does your child have special needs or a current educational plan? If so, will online schooling support your child more? the same? or less?
    • Regarding the above question: if your student needs additional support, where will you get the support from? (ex. your efforts, local resources, your current public school, etc.)
    • Does your family currently rely on available resources from the school? (Ex. Reduced or free lunches, before or after-school care, sports, EPs, sport, clubs or activities) 
    • If you answered yes to any of the above, be sure to ask what resources will still be available and how you will access them? Will the accommodations fit into your schedule? (Ex. will you have to drive to the school each morning for breakfast?)
    • Tough question: is your child safe/comfortable at home? The pandemic has placed an incredible amount of stress on families and individuals. If your child would benefit from time away from the stress, you’ll need to weigh the physical pros and cons with the emotional pros and cons


    The Future:

    • How long do you plan to utilize this alternative option? Until the pandemic is over? Indefinitely? Or will you change mid-year if it’s not working?  Regardless of your plan, be sure to find out what your options are before you enlist your student.
    • Related to above: Questions to ask: Can I remove my child mid-year if necessary? Will there be costs associated with moving my child in/out?  Will the public school or an alternative school have openings for me mid-year or even next year? How well will the classes my student completed transfer?
    • Do NOT miss this opportunity: if you choose to pull your child out of these activities during the pandemic. We do not know how long the pandemic concerns will last. Planning now will help you prepare and put your mind at ease regardless of the future.

    Your Student:

    • How does your student feel about the options?

      Valuable questions to ask:

    “Will you be able to stay on task with online learning?”

    “What will help you stay organized/on task?”

    “What are some ways you can still feel connected with your friends/other students?”

    “Do you want to connect with your friends at school or meet knew friends at another school?”

    “What would a school day look like for you?”


    Homeschooling in Michigan

    First, it’s important to know there are two types of homeschooling options in Michigan:

    1. Operate as a home school
      -minimal requirements: currently you do not need permission, approval a license or permit
      -not required, but beneficial: avoid truancy concerns by letting your child’s current school know you’re unrolling your child and plan to homeschool.
    2. Operate as a non-public school
      -requires that you use or are a certified teacher (although religious exemptions may apply)
      -teach curriculum comparable to your local school district (by age/grade)
      -you may be required to submit to investigations/examinations regarding your non-public school

     

    State Resources:

    Michigan Government Homeschooling Page 
    Michigan Department of Education Homeschooling PDF

    Please note, this information is not intended to provide or replace legal advice.


    Pros:

    • Flexible location; Learning can be on-the-go
    • If implemented correctly, life lessons count!  (cooking; museums; lemonade stands)
    • No COVID contact or limited COVID contact depending on how you utilize homeschooling
    • Outside of the state requirements, you are 100% in charge of the curriculum.

      Current Michigan state requirements: Instruction must include mathematics, reading, English, science, and social studies in all

      grades; and the Constitution f the United States, the Constitution of Michigan, and the
      history and present form of civil government of the United States, the State of Michigan, and
      the political subdivisions and municipalities of the State of Michigan in grades 10, 11, and 12.
    • You control your child’s daily environment (no in-school violence, drug exposure)
    • A wide range of homeschooling options (programs, packets and supplies) are available 
    • Children are able to learn at their pace 
    • No mandated testing is required, although it is available through the public schools if you’d like a record of your child’s progress
    • You determine your child’s graduation requirements
    • The sky is the limit to learning

    Cons:

    Please note, these responses are based on 100% homeschooling by the parent or guardian. Obviously, more flexibility is available if you join or form a homeschooling group, collective, association, or hire a certified teacher.

    • You are 100% responsible for homeschooling costs (books, programs, etc.)
    • You are 100% responsible for your child’s education, although you may consider hiring a certified teacher or share the cost with other families
    • You are responsible for peer contact, but options include homeschooling groups, associations, even your assigned public school 
    • Homeschooling requires supplies: computer/laptop and an internet connection, books, packets, and any additional equipment you choose
    • You will need classroom space and storage for books and materials
    • Possible disruptions due to tech issues (internet disruptions, computer problems, connectivity) can occur, as well as personal emergencies. However, you are the “school” so opportunities for learning are all around you. 
    • Students will be home all or most of the day. Younger children will require full supervision.  
    • Both you and your child must remain motivated and committed daily.  
    • While not required, record-keeping (assignments, grades, any test results) are recommended. 
    • You are your child’s main go-to-support person for education, homework, etc.  
    Be Aware:

    • Many homeschoolers outscore their in-classroom peers, but your child’s results depend heavily on you.
    •  Although you’re in charge of the curriculum, you may want to ensure you’re keeping pace with future opportunities.  If you switch to a public school they may require testing placements.  As your child approaches graduation (or high school years) you should pay attention to how well your curriculum fits potential colleges, universities, trade schools, even potential jobs. 
    • You may have access to public school support when it comes to electives, special needs and sports participation. 


    Special Needs: The annual reporting of a home school to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is voluntary. It is not required unless the student is requesting eligible special education services from the local public school or intermediate school district. It is recommended the parent first submit a completed Nonpublic School Membership Report to MDE if special education services will be requested. This form is available on the Michigan home school website – www.michigan.gov/homeschool.

    Athletics: The supervision and control of interscholastic athletics are the responsibility of each local board of education. Most local boards have adopted policies as proposed by the Michigan High School Athletic Association. Please contact the appropriate local school district or the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) at (517) 332-5046 or MHSAA website –www.mhsaa.com.

    • While extremely flexible, routines and schedules are essential. Be sure to implement some form of standard routine.
    • Homeschooling requires patience and flexibility. 
    Questions/Considerations:

     

    Parental Considerations:

    • Are you prepared to do the research related to the best homeschooling programs?. 
    • Do you have access to the appropriate equipment or can you gain access?
    • Will homeschooling fit your budget? 
    • Who will be with your child/educating your child if you’re not able to?
    • Are you willing/able to help your child establish a routine/schedule? And enforce it? 
    • Are you able to enforce/ensure your student is reaching the educational goals?
    • Tough question: is your child safe/comfortable at home? The pandemic has placed an incredible amount of stress on families and individuals. If your child would benefit from time away from the stress, you’ll need to weigh the physical pros and cons with the emotional pros and cons

    Homeschooling’s Unique Atmosphere:

    • How does homeschooling fit your personality? Your child’s personality? 
    • If you’re already struggling with having your child with you 24/7; or you’re struggling with behavior and discipline, these may be the best indicators of whether homeschool is the best match for you. 
    • If you didn’t enjoy it feel comfortable “teaching” your child this spring, that’s another great indicator. Don’t worry if it wasn’t for you; many parents felt the same way! 
    • Did your child struggle to learn at home? If so, why? Can these issues be resolved with the proper resources and support? 
    • Your child will require significant oversight on your end. If so, are you comfortable with that? And do you have the flexibility?

     

    Social Connections/Peers

    • Would your child benefit from being away from the public school (ex. your child has been bullied or feels unsafe, uncomfortable at his/her current school)
    • What are your plans to ensure your child still maintains plenty of peer interaction?

     

    Your Student’s Specific Needs:

    • Does your child have special needs or a current educational plan? If so, will homeschooling support your child more? the same? or less? 
    • Regarding the above question: if your student needs additional support, where will you get the support from? (Ex. your efforts, local resources, your current public school, etc.) Note: homeschoolers can access public school support, however, specific guidelines must be followed.
    • Does your family currently rely on available resources from the school? (ex. Reduced or free lunches, before or after-school care, sports, IEPs, sport, clubs or activities) 
    • If you answered yes to any of the above, be sure to ask what resources will still be available and how you will access them? Will the accommodations still fit into your schedule? (ex. will you have to drive to the school each morning for breakfast?)

    The Future:

    • How long do you plan to utilize this alternative option? Until the pandemic is over? Indefinitely? Or will you change mid-year if it’s not working?  Regardless of your plan, be sure to find out what your options are before you enlist your student.
    • Related to above: Questions to ask:  Will the public school or an alternative school have openings for me mid-year or even next year if homeschooling doesn’t work?  What will your curriculum require to ensure your child meets the alternative requirements. 
    • Do NOT miss this opportunity – even if you choose to pull your child out of these activities during the pandemic. We do not know how long the pandemic concerns will last. Planning now will help you prepare and put your mind at ease regardless of the future. 

     

    Your Student:

    • How does your student feel about the options?