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TEN Parent Testimonies: We need creative solutions to this education crisis.

Updated: Nov 11

Today, the State Board of Education heard testimony submitted last month from parents outlining their experiences with remote learning and their concerns about supporting their students through learning disruptions.




To the Colorado State Board of Education and Commissioner Anthes,


Members of the Board of Education,


I am a proud mother of three boys and a parent leader with Transform Education Now . I love my kids more than you can imagine, which is why I am taking the time to write this to the State Board of Education today. I am struggling with remote learning. Right before the COVID outbreak hit Colorado and closed school, my son was in the process of being evaluated for an individualized learning plan. He was behind before this learning disruption. And now, more than ever before, I am concerned that he will fall further and further behind. I am not receiving the services that I need to support him through his school. I have built a pod, that I am paying for, with my savings to help support their learning, but the truth is, I can’t sustain this without some kind of financial support.


I am a single mother, who is trying to balance remote learning plus working to pay our bills and it is hard. I wish I could hire a tutor for him and get him set up with the resources that he needs to catch up while he is at home. The state should be providing parents with some type of stipend- our schools aren’t working- why can’t we provide families with financial support as we navigate this? I know other states are doing this. In North Carolina, the state legislature is providing families with money so that they can directly support their students’ learning during this unprecedented moment- why can’t Colorado do something like this? If I am just being really honest, I don’t feel like I am receiving the services that I should be from my school and I know that our schools get money per student that attends. I love my school and I want to support it, but I also love my son more and I know that he would be better off if I was provided with financial resources to directly support his learning.


Thank you,


Joanna Saenz

*******

My name is Rosemary Alfaro and I am the parent of multiple students across Denver Public Schools. I am here today because our schools and students are facing a real emergency. Since March we have had to endure and adjust, and make due with a constant changing environment and a flood of contradictory information, and the ones who are suffering the consequences are our children.

Our students are struggling both in “classes” and out of them. Many students are struggling to learn and are falling behind. I have heard stories of young students who are three years behind where they should be and their school is not offering any plan or any support to make sure that they catch up, they are telling their parents that it is their responsibility to catch their child up. Why wasnt this addressed years ago? Why are we just learning about this now? And why isnt anyone else stepping up to support this student and ensure that they have what they need to succeed?

Remote learning is not working, parents need more, they need more consistent, and clear information, they need support ensuring that their children have the chance to learn, and they need additional resources for their kids. That includes mental health support. It is not normal for our kids to be in front of a screen, away from their teachers, separated from their friends, they need our help and your commitment to ensure that they will be supported, cared for and have the opportunity to be successful. We need your leadership, it is your responsibility to serve the needs of kids across our state and now more than ever we need courageous leadership to do the hard things for our kids.


Thank you.


Rosemary Alfaro



******


Hola me llamo Silvia Soy un padre líder con T.E.N y soy una mamá que ha estado tratando de apoyar a mi hija a través del aprendizaje remoto. Sirvo el almuerzo todos los días en una escuela de las Escuelas Públicas de Denver y tratar de equilibrar mi trabajo y el aprendizaje de mi hija ha sido muy difícil. Mi hija tiene un IEP y estoy realmente preocupado de que se esté quedando atrás durante el aprendizaje remoto. También estoy muy nerviosa por enviarla de regreso a la escuela en un momento en que vemos que las tasas de COVID aumentan en todo nuestro estado y en todo el país. Siento que me están poniendo en un dilema imposible: enviar a mi hija de regreso a la escuela y correr el riesgo de que se enferme o de que alguien de mi familia se enferme o se quede en casa y se arriesgue a que se retrase y no pueda trabajar. Esta no es una pregunta justa para los padres. ¿Por qué el estado no puede crear una mejor solución? ¿Por qué son estas nuestras únicas dos opciones? ¿Por qué no se puede pagar a los padres si educamos a nuestros hijos en casa?

Mi hija ha estado en una grupo de aprendizaje, eso no es apoyado por el sistema escolar y le va bien allí, pero no podemos seguir haciéndolo, porque no tenemos los medios para hacerlo. El estado debería ayudar a los padres a formar entornos de aprendizaje pequeños y seguros que apoyen a los estudiantes individuales y sus planes de aprendizaje.


Silvia Estala-Monreal




Hello my name is Silvia and I am a mom who has been trying to support my daughter through remote learning. I serve lunch everyday at a school in Denver Public Schools and trying to balance my job and my daughter’s learning has been really challenging. My daughter has an IEP and I am really worried that she is falling behind during remote learning- I am also really nervous about sending her back to school during a time when we are seeing COVID rates increase across our state and across the country. I feel like I am being put in an impossible dilemma- send my daughter back to school and risk her getting sick or someone in my family getting sick or keeping her home and risking her falling behind and not being able to work. This is not a fair ask of parents. Why can’t the state create a better solution? Why are these our only two choices? Why can’t parents get paid if we homeschool our kids?

My daughter has been in a pod, that is not supported by the school system and she is doing ok there, but we can’t keep doing that, because we don’t have the means to. The state should be helping parents form small, safe learning environments that support individual students and their learning plans.


Silvia Estala-Monreal



*****


Members of the Board of Education,


I am a single mom of a 3rd grade student in DPS. Since April, I have been paying $800 a month for childcare during remote learning. I am lucky because my daughter is an independent and very sharp 3rd grader who is able to navigate remote learning on her computer on her own and has been able to join remote math and reading club at her school, Highline Academy SouthEast. Her teachers are doing a great job and I am really happy with remote learning, but it has been difficult financially.


I felt compelled to write to you because I feel it is important to talk about the fact that parents are paying for childcare right now in order to keep working. I do not have the choice to stop working and so I have been putting childcare on my credit card so I don’t lose my job. I have spent over $5,000 childcare so that I can keep my job. This is an impossible burden to sustain.


I have it better than many families. They left us with no resources. Everybody is still paying taxes and contributing, but what are we getting back? We are forced to choose between our jobs and our children’s education. This is an unfair burden on families and I believe that we can do better than this. Why can’t we support families more concretely through this crisis?


I know everyone is trying their hardest during this insanely difficult moment in history, but I think we need to get more creative. Parents are creative, we know what is best for our children, why can’t the state support us as we support our children through this?


Thank you for your time and your leadership,


Caitlyn Crelin


*****


Members of the State Board of Education,


My name is Dina Puente and I am a parent leader and community organizer in Montbello. This Spring, members of my family experienced the COVID 19 Crisis first hand. My children’s father ended up in the intensive care unit, struggling to breath and diagnosed with COVID. My children have chronic health issues, making them high risk for having complications with the virus. We will not be sending our children back as some families will be. Instead, we will be continuing with remote learning because our family understands the risks associated with the pandemic in a very personal way.


There are some aspects of remote learning that I have really liked. I like to listen to what the teacher is teaching and monitor my students’ progress more closely. I have the ability now to observe my students’ classes like never before. I also like the fact that we can adapt learning to fit our schedule. If my kids have doctors appointments or we need to be somewhere else, they still can log on and be learning, no matter where they are.


There are other aspects of remote learning that I know we have to improve to make it equitable for all kids. We are not doing enough to support families who do not speak english to support them through their remote learning. We are not doing enough to support student mental health during this very unsettling time. And, we are not doing enough to support families who are having to chose between working and their students’ learning.


I did notice there are not many ways for families to communicate our needs and concerns right now- how did the State Legislature meet about the education crisis and not invite a single parent? Now, we can’t even give public comment, we have to write it and send it instead. Why is no one listening to families?


I believe that more innovation is possible. I believe that we can support all students- at home and in school to learn through this moment. I am thankful for the leadership of Commissioner Anthes and Governor Polis who I know have been trying their best to find solutions to these types of problems. The COVID crisis is not going away anytime soon and I can tell you, it is a matter of life or death for those who have come close to it. We have to find more creative ways to support families whose students are at home.


Thank you,


Dina Puente