Families cope with online schooling

Tyler Jensen, son of Adam and Rachel Jensen of Gunnison, takes a break from his studies to play ball. Tyler is an eighth grader at Gunnison Valley Middle School.


Families cope with online schooling


By Dyna Folkersen

Staff writer


With many parents undertaking the daunting task of juggling work and directing their children in on-line schooling, structure is a must.

Gabe and Taralee Mayfield, of Manti, have two students they are now educating from home. One is their daughter Ella, 13, a seventh grader at Ephraim Middle School, and the other is son Drake, 16, a sophomore at Manti High School.

Drake chooses to work full-time during the day and do his studies in the evening. It takes him only about 45 each evening to get his studies done, his mother said.

However, Ella has a different school structure. “Ella gets up, has breakfast and gets her homework done before doing anything else,” Taralee said.

While Taralee works, she and Ella stay in touch in regards to Ella’s schoolwork. Ella will call Taralee and tell her which homework assignments are due and ask her to print them out.

“I am able to print her assignments from work and bring them to her,” Taralee said.

While Canvas is the primary learning site for both children’s teachers, the teachers are also available through Zoom and email. And the South Sanpete district has set up Wi-Fi points around the county for families who do not have internet.

“Teachers are on Zoom from a certain time to a certain time. It’s like a face time call, and a bunch of people can get on when the teacher is available,” Taralee said.

With both children being avid soccer players, Taralee hoped the district would offer some kind of extracurricular activity. Ella has played soccer for eight years and been on a club team for the past three years.

“I think with it being an outside sport it would be nice if they would still offer practice where each player could bring their own gear,” Taralee said. “They could get some exercise and be outside.”

“We can’t have soccer because of the coronavirus. I don’t like it at all,” Ella said. “I was looking forward to soccer.”

Many of the classes begin with Zoom sessions, where teachers and students face time and talk about assignments. Taralee wishes it would be a little more formal.

“She’s basically able to do it,” Taralee said. “But she’s uncomfortable on the Zoom calls.

“I think core classes—like math, science and English—have a 15-minute mandatory video where the teacher is explaining the daily lesson,” Taralee said. But in reality, she says, “They’re just figuring out their homework on their own without much instruction.

“You’re not with a teacher so they don’t really explain your homework to you as well as if you were really there,” Ella said.

Parents are also concerned with being able to help their student with questions they themselves don’t have an answers for.

“Drake needed help with his math homework yesterday, and I had no idea how to help him,” Taralee said. “But he does know how to get a hold of his teacher; it’s not like they are going without help.”

“We’re all adjusting,” she said.

Adam and Rachel Jensen, of Gunnison, have four children doing schoolwork at home, including one who has special needs. Two of the Jensens’ children, Tyler and Jackie, both 14, are in eighth grade. Hayden is 12, and Annalee is 9.

Adam is a doctor at the Gunnison Valley Hospital, and Rachel is a nurse for the South Sanpete School District.

Their kids know what COVID-19 is and how to prevent from getting it.

“My husband is a physician. So we talk a lot about it. What it is, what it isn’t. Why there is social distancing,” Rachel said.

A typical day in the Jensen household begins at 8 a.m. The family takes the day in one-hour increments.

“Making sure they don’t spend more than an hour without breaking things up has been helpful,” Rachel said.

After lunch the family has quiet time and then wraps up the school day or attends extra-curricular activities. Their third grader takes violin lessons through Zoom.

“She thought it was weird, but it’s something to keep them going,” Rachel said.

As far as team sports go the kids were a little saddened.

“My kids are disappointed. They were in sports and dance, and we can’t do anything like that for the time being,” Rachel said.

Many parents have the same concern.

“Socially it’s been hard,” Rachel said. “My kids’ schedule is upside down. They’ve lost a lot of structure and predictability.”

But all things considered, Rachel thinks the district went above and beyond to assure students are getting instruction.

As a school nurse serving Gunnison Valley Schools, she gets a first-hand view of what teachers are doing.

“Given the circumstances I don’t know how they could have done anything better,” she said. “The elementary school has been putting in long, long hours to be there for their students.”

Rachel has a friend in Idaho who is still waiting for school instruction for her children. The friend stated that they don’t have enough iPads for every student in Idaho and that Utah kids are very fortunate.

“It’s been stressful to know my kids are home, and I need to meet their needs and still do my job,” Rachel said. “Emotions are riding high. I’ve had my days I’ve sat and cried.

“You cry and wipe up your tears and keep moving forward. Let your emotions out, try to look at the blessings and move forward.”

Ella Mayfield, daughter of Gabe and Taralee Mayfield of Manti, is working on her science assignment from home and adjusting to the current changes in school. Ella is a student at Ephraim Middle School.