Main and Mulberry Podcast – July 20, 2020 (w/ Selena Silvestro, Collierville TN Moms Facebook Group)

The Collierville Tennessee Moms Facebook group recently conducted a poll. With almost 400 responses in nearly 24 hours, they learned that about 65% of parents are leaning towards enrolling their students for in-class instruction, about 20% online, and roughly 11% still undecided. We’re joined by one of the Facebook group’s admins, Selena Silvestro, to discuss the dilemma that all parents are debating right now.

Transcript

Selena: Hello, everyone. I’m Anna Bell, and welcome to another episode of Main and Mulberry. I have with us today the admin for the Collierville Tennessee Moms Facebook group, and parent of two Collierville schools students, Selena Silvestro, on with us today to kind of talk about the upcoming school year for Collierville students and the initiatives that are taking place during this COVID 19 coronavirus pandemic. Selena, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today.

Selena: Thank you, Anna. I appreciate you inviting me on your show.

Anna: I’m so excited to have you on today. Kind of tell us a little bit about yourself, Selena. You’re a mom of two school-aged kids, right?

Selena: Yes. I’ve got a rising seventh grade son and a ninth grade, rising ninth grader. So, this is a challenging year for all parents.

Anna: So true. And you’re an admin for the Collierville Tennessee Moms Facebook group. You’ve got quite the following. Kind of tell us why this group got started.

Selena: We started it several years ago. We’ve got over 3,000 moms in it right now, primarily Collierville. We do prefer to talk about Collierville schools, issues, activities around town, and we keep it positive. Unlike the public groups, you know, we keep it like a community and a warm feeling. So, we try to foster the relationship of “We’re on the same team, you know? Let’s be supportive, let’s be warm, let’s be kind, and not argue like so many Facebook groups.” There’s a lot of drama [inaudible]. We try very hard not to go in that direction because there’s enough places to have online drama. We’re trying not to do that, so…

Anna: And emotions are high right now! Everybody’s concerned, and one topic that every parent of school-aged children is talking about right now is the upcoming fall semester for the Collierville schools, you know, an open forum for concerned parents, let’s talk about the conversations that have been happening over the last couple of months, and especially the last few weeks. What are parents discussing on your Facebook page right now?

Selena: Well, as the different school systems in the Mid-South have been releasing their plans, there’s been constant analysis and pros and cons of, you know, everything. Millington and Shelby County Schools released theirs, DeSoto and then Germantown, and then now Collierville. So, we’ve got all of these different options. Some have all online learning and all virtual, like Collierville has gone with. Some have a hybrid of two-day-a-week instruction and three-day online. Germantown’s doing something like that, and Millington. And there’s just a lot of questions right now, especially when it comes to, “What will the virtual program be like? What’s the online program really going to entail?” So, I was curious. I’m on the fence. My husband and I are trying to decide what’s best for our kids. And every family is so different. Every family has different set of medical situation that they’re dealing with. They might be caring for somebody in their home, or very close to grandparents, or they might have children who have pre-existing conditions that make it more dangerous with this virus. So, it’s going to be what’s best for them, and I’m glad that Collierville Schools has worked very hard to come up with a plan that gives options. We put up a poll, yesterday…

Selena: In the Facebook group, though, are there particular topics that people are kind of coming back to? I know one thing I’m saying around is, you know, mask versus the no mask, and the different ages are online versus in-school instruction. Is there anything you can kind of drill down for us?

Selena: There are a lot of questions, and when I posted the poll, a lot of people messaged and texted me with questions. The biggest question that I’m seeing for people who are trying to decide, they might be leaning towards the virtual program, but they look up the program that selected: Ingenuity, and they’re a little alarmed. And I’ve been reading a lot of the reviews, and I take it with a grain of salt because I realize there’s a lot of teenagers writing those reviews, not just parents. I’m like, “Maybe it’s not one out of five stars. Maybe it’s a little better than that, we’re hoping.” We don’t know what the one-on-one interaction with Collierville school teachers would be. I’ve heard that they’re not going to be setting up video in classrooms and having actual live, remote learning, like you would think remote learning would be. This is more of a different type of, I guess, program that can handle the mass amount of students. There’s concern about, if your child is a high flyer, high achiever, the AP options might be two instead of five, somebody told me for their child.

Anna: A lot of different variables there, and Collierville Schools did release their reopening and a recovery plan for the 2021 school year. You know, what has been the vibe that you’ve been hearing from parents are? Are they mostly in the, for camp or against camp when it comes?

Selena: Okay, so here’s the breakdown. Totally unscientific survey just posted in a mom’s group. So, keep that in mind. We’ve got almost 400 responses in 24 hours. So far, about 65% are leaning towards in-class instruction, and 20% online. There are 11% right now who are undecided because they want more information about what exactly the virtual program is. How much interaction and support is there from actual Collierville teachers. So, if their child is one that is in the gifted or honors track, that’s where I’m seeing a lot of the concern. There’s even a group that was formed of moms last year. I’m not in it. I’m not an admin. I’m in the group, but I’m not in charge of it, but there are issues with, if your child is, has a IEP or special ed for the gifted program, or into a lot of AP and the higher classes, how does this help them? Do they fall behind with the virtual program? Is it kind of middle of the road? How does a program like this maybe widen some of the problems between struggling students and, you know…

Anna: I know, as a parent, it’s got to be so hard. There are so many concerns. Well, what about yourself? How have you been feeling, you know, right now with your boys? Do they typically, you know, ride the bus or do they typically grab lunch in the cafeteria? Have you been able to talk to them about kind of what this next school year is going to look like?

Selena: We have discussed it. My high schooler, he’s more interested in possibly going to the high school and getting the in-person experience. My seventh grader, he’s comfortable with online learning. We may, for the sake of safety, do the virtual program. Right now, I was looking at some of the concerns and issues. Right now, it looks like, from the people in our group anyway, only about 3% are choosing a homeschool, leaving Collierville Schools and doing homeschool curriculum and doing their own thing. And 1% have said that they’re leaving Collierville Schools and enrolling in a private school. So, for most parents, the monetary investment of a private school is too high. A lot of times, the time investment of, you know, the program says it takes four to six hours a day of education. Somebody in the family, or maybe it can be a grandparent or a trusted neighbor, somebody needs to invest that time to make sure the program is being followed, and I could see that being especially important for younger children. A high schooler might be able to do online learning without as much supervision, but you know, the younger children, I can see that being a big time investment. So, for two working parents, what does that look like? Is it self-paced? Can a parent do a job, get out at four or five o’clock, and then spend four or five hours with their child doing the online classes? Are they recorded, and then you just watch them? It seems like, you know, those are some of the questions. What exactly does it mean? Is the high school student at, in front of the computer at 7:30 for attendance, on camera? Or is it self-paced or…

Anna: It’s going to be so hard getting those kids up and ready to go to do those things.

Selena: We’re so worried about that.

Anna: I know it. Well, Selena, I do want to ask, as we kind of wrap things up, you know, if there is a parent listening today who is in the undecided camp, who’s still nervous, do you have anything you’d like to add for those parents? [Inaudible] what to do before the kids go back to school in August.

Selena: I am very sure there’s a deluge of emails going to covid19@colliervilleschools.org. That’s the email provided, so that parents can voice individual questions or concerns to the school district. I would think, before the deadline at the end of the month, I think it’s the 29th, there’s going to be more, I’m hoping, more questions answered. “We’ve received feedback from parents, and here’s more Q&A information,” and that would help people who are on the fence or undecided be more confident in their decision. Ultimately, the parents dictate how this is going to be. If we are positive and we’re teaching our kids resilience and work, we make the decision, and we’re confident with it, then we can give our children more confidence, and if we don’t stress, they shouldn’t stress as much. So, we just got to stay positive. Yeah, there’s a way at the end of the semester for a parent to change. So, whatever decision is made is, you know, maybe not the best. They could go in January and start, flip it, and do another option. It does say in there that they need to meet with an administrator and a counselor for an individual plan. So, some of the parents were asking, “Is the virtual program a lower-quality program?” So, are their other children going to be behind and then have a hard time getting back on track with their peers, especially if it’s an honors course or AP or some of the higher learning courses. So, that’s one of the concerns I’ve been hearing. There’s so many comments, as you can imagine.

Anna: I know. You can’t fish through all of them, but you know what, Selena, we really do appreciate your time and your thoughts today, sharing that with us. We do appreciate it. And, you know, as we’re all trying to figure out what to do that’s the best for our kids. So, just thank you for your time today.

Selena: Well, thank you. And I’ll be reading a lot more comments, and talking, and seeing what Collierville Schools will put out, so that my husband and I can help make the best decision for our kids. We’re still undecided. We are very much interested in learning more about what the Virtual Academy entails, in a little bit better detail.

Anna: I’m Anna Bell, sending you all well wishes.

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