Cameron family chooses homeschooling over in-person learning

(CAMERON, Mo.) The COVID-19 pandemic has made virtual learning a new reality for students, parents and teachers but learning through a screen isn’t working for everyone as local reports show a rise in failing grades.

Now, Cameron R-1 School District is asking struggling virtual students to return to the classroom, but one family feels they’re being pushed against a wall. 

For Jossie Johnson, she felt enrolling her children in Cameron’s virtual school was the best option for her family. 

“If my kids get COVID at school, I could be risking taking it to my residents,” said Jossie Johnson, Cameron R-1 School District parent. 

Johnson and her husband are both health care workers at a Cameron nursing home. The family has chosen to take the virus seriously, limiting travel outside of the home. Johnson said even taking the children to the playground has become more of a rarity.

Because of this, the family wants their five children, ranging from 5 to 13 years old, to learn online- but they’re falling behind academically. 

“My oldest is doing pretty good with the Chrome, but without her. We would be completely lost. Me and my husband have no clue what to do,” said Johnson. 

Parents aren’t tech savvy, so they rely on their oldest daughter Trina, 13, to help with her younger siblings online classes. Trina said her younger brother and sisters are struggling to learn virtually. 

“They had never really gone on computers before, so I had to help them with that,” said Trina Dudley, 7th grader enrolled in the virtual learning at CVMS.  

Now the school district is stepping in. 

“We really do need your kid back in school if they’re going to continue to fail,” said Dr. Matt Robinson, Cameron R-1 School District Superintendent. 

Dr. Robinson said no ultimatum has been given, but the family doesn’t feel that way. 

“Basically said I’d have to homeschool them too because they wouldn’t be accepted for the second semester for virtual learning if they had missing or late assignments a lot- which they did because we don’t know how to do it without my 13 year old,” said Johnson. 

Back in the summer, Dr. Robinson said the district informed families interested in the virtual learning option for the fall semester would need a background in technology on, “how to be able to log into computers, log into the programs, do those different pieces because there is no other way we can do it.”

Both parties admit they’re frustrated with the situation.

Trina said her teachers can take awhile to respond to assignment questions which can make it difficult to understand and complete assignments, along with helping her siblings.

Dr. Robinson said he understands the lag time can be frustrating for students and parents but at the moment, teachers could be feeling overwhelmed as “they’re really teaching two classes at once.”

Unlike the St. Joseph School District, virtual learning teachers are also teaching their normal face-to-face classes. 

The Johnson family is a perfect storm of why virtual learning can be so challenging, but educators said they aren’t the only family facing this same problem. 

“This is not an isolated incident. There are many families within our communities across the state and across the nation that are dealing with this dilemma on figuring out how to keep their children safe while keeping their children educated,” said J. Eric Simmons, President of SJNEA. 

The president of St. Joseph’s National Education Association said the Cameron R-1 School District is within their right to suggest the family homeschools, but said it might not be in the family’s best favor.

“That is very much an independent guided learning model that if the family is already having some difficulties with online learning, it may not be the best fit for their family,” said Simmons. 

Johnson said she feels stuck. She wants to keep her family and residents safe from COVID-19, but doesn’t want her kids to fall behind in school. 

“They try to suggest us to send them to school. They thought that was the best option for our kids. To us, that’s not the best option to our kids,” said Johnson. 

Johnson said after Christmas, the family will begin homeschooling their four youngest children. Trina will continue with virtual learning. 

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