Moms advocate for school return

Both women left teaching positions to take care of their children at home during a global pandemic

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OLIVER MCKENNA | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

Pullman parents have voiced their concerns about remote learning affecting their children’s mental health and social skills, as well as their ability to focus.

ALEXANDRIA OSBORNE, Evergreen reporter

Two mothers left their teaching positions at Concordia Lutheran Preschool to take care of their young children, but believe it is time for their children to return back to school. 

Sarah Knight, former preschool teacher, has three elementary school-age children: a 6-year-old son in first grade, an 8-year-old son in third grade and an 11-year-old son in fifth grade.

Knight resigned from her position in August to stay home while her children attend online school. She said her children are doing well academically. 

“They are engaged because they have multiple Zooms a day,” she said.

However, young children have a hard time remaining focused, she said, and her first-grade son struggles to sit in front of the computer all day.

Going back to school would improve her children’s social and emotional health because they would be interacting with their friends and teachers, she said.

Knight said she has seen her eighth-grade son struggle not being with his friends. Her first-grade son only attended a few months of kindergarten.

“He hasn’t had a whole lot of that kind of interaction that I feel like he’s missing,” she said.

Her third-grader is immunocompromised, but Knight said that she is more worried about his mental health. 

She said she is trying to outweigh the risks of keeping her kids home versus sending them back to school where they could possibly get sick.

“I am definitely worried in the back of my head that they will catch [COVID-19],” she said.

Research has helped Knight make her feel comfortable sending her children back to school. She said she looked at the likelihood of children contracting COVID-19, and saw the likelihood is low.

Children can contract COVID-19, but many do not develop symptoms or experience milder symptoms, according to an article from Harvard Medical School.

Knight said she could have stayed and taught at the preschool, but her husband is an essential worker, so staying home was her only option. The preschool was also downsizing so there would be only one class. 

She said she has not been offered her job back yet because of the small number of students attending the school. 

Elizabeth O’Loughlin, former director of Concordia Lutheran Preschool, resigned from her position in August to stay home with her three children as well.

The decision to resign from her position at the preschool was easy to make, but difficult to follow through with, she said. She loves the children she worked with, but staying with her own was the obvious choice.

O’Loughlin said she has three children, a first-grader, a fourth-grader and an eighth-grader, who go to school online through the Pullman School District.

She said her children are doing well online, but remote learning has become more difficult.

“Each day I feel that we lose a little bit more ground — with academics, with mental stability, with just emotional balance and well-being,” O’Loughlin said.

If she had chosen to continue working at the preschool, O’Loughlin said her children would have a harder time in school because she would not be there to help them.

There are still a lot of children who want to go to Concordia Lutheran Preschool, so the decision to downsize was based only on safety precautions, she said. The option to go back to work is there, but not guaranteed because of the small number of students currently attending, she said.

O’Loughlin said that she was hoping the school board would give families the option of sending students to school or staying at home.

Some parents do not have the option of staying home with their children or access to supplies or stable internet, she said. Sometimes schools provide better support that a lot of children in Pullman need, and it would be safer to have that option available, she said.