5 Families In 5 Districts Share Their Back-To-School Journeys With KSL

Aug 26, 2020, 7:53 AM | Updated: 7:59 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Families are sending their students back to school right now, whether in  person, online, or some of both.

While their choices may be different, everyone agrees the situation is not ideal. Through the coming school year, KSL will follow five families in five districts who have made different learning choices to get a better idea of the challenges facing Utah families.

The Williams Family from Salt Lake City, the ‘Iongi Family from West Valley City, the Nagel Family from Park City, the Johnson Family from Herriman and the Pursglove Family from Sandy will all be sharing their stories through the year.

The Nagel children will be going back to school full time. Their parents both work, and dad Matt Nagel said he and his wife aren’t comfortable leaving the kids unsupervised for six days a week.

However, sending them back isn’t coming without some concern.

“We feel like it’s Russian roulette,” Matt Nagel said. “Someone is going to get sick.”

The ‘Iongi family is also returning in-person. With no underlying health concerns, the choice for them was easy.

“We are going back with confidence and excitement,” said mom Luisa ‘Iongi. “The kids are excited to meet their new teachers, and my husband and I believe it takes a village to raise a child.”

On the other end of the experience, the Williams and their five children are learning from home.

They had no choice, as the Salt Lake City School District has opted for online-classes only at this time.

“For my kids, I don’t think it’s fair,” said mom Raina Wilson. “I just don’t buy the fact that our kids are going to be safer.”

The Johnson family in the Jordan School District could have gone to school, but they’re choosing to stay home.

“I felt a moral obligation to do it so that our teachers would have the option to do online,” said mom Emily Johnson.

The Pursgloves in the Canyons School District had to consider their daughter’s asthma and nut allergies.

“I think to be safe, we’re going to stay put because we can,” said mom Stephanie Pursglove.

Daughter Morgan Pursglove will only go to school in-person for one class – dual immersion Spanish. The course is not offered online.

She said she wishes she could feel safe and be with her friends.

“It’s going to be kind of sad because you know everyone else has gone back and you’re still at home,” Morgan Pursglove said.

Each family faces unique challenges during this COVID-19 school year. Emily Johnson knows it will be tough to become the full-time teacher to her second-, sixth- and eighth-graders.

“My kids are better at school than they are for their mom, as I’m sure other kids are,” Emily Johnson said with a laugh. “So I’m worried about some of the power battles as we go through.”

The ‘Iongis said they’re worried about the struggle of their kids wearing masks seven hours a day.

“We don’t completely agree with wearing the mask all day because it’s going to be hard for them,” Luisa ‘Iongi said.

Matt Nagel is a teacher, and he said he feels the burden to protect his colleagues, students and his own family.

“We’re going to be cautious,” he said. “We’re going to set up classes procedurally so we don’t have huddled masses of kids, but I have 32 kids in my class.”

Some families are taking matters into their own hands to make the school situation work – even at considerable cost.

The Williams, with up to seven computer users, have had to upgrade their internet service and are looking for an in-home tutor. They’ve also transferred their fifth-grader into the Granite School District so she can attend school in-person.

“Our only choice is to leave the district, move, or accept a subpar education because of where we live,” Raina Williams said.

The Pursgloves also enrolled their daughter in private, online courses and hired a math tutor.

“I’m just concerned about the quality of online education,” Stephanie Pursglove said. “It’s nothing against the teachers. I just think they’ve been thrown into this.”

The outlook for the school year is varying among the families. Those returning in-person have shared some excitement for normalcy.

“That’s what I appreciate more than anything is parents have been given the choice,” Luisa ‘Iongi said.

Some families said they fear the negative impacts of COVID-19 on schools is worse and more likely than the virus itself.

“We shouldn’t jus be focused on COVID and the ramifications of that,” Raina Williams said. “But we should be focusing on the bigger picture of our kids’ education, our kids’ mental health.”

Others believe the state and districts haven’t imposed mandates that are tough enough to protect students and teachers.

“I wish they were putting something in place with more social distancing,” Stephanie Pursglove said.

Where they all agree is that this year will be a challenge. They’re trying to explore their options and stay positive.

“I think the parents’ attitude has the biggest influence on the kids, whether to wear a mask or have success in school,” Emily Johnsons said.

State leaders are hoping all families, no matter where they are, will keep three things in mind: Stay positive, stay safe, and stay home when sick.

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5 Families In 5 Districts Share Their Back-To-School Journeys With KSL