Dissatisfied with remote learning, some parents start to mobilize.
A year into the pandemic, less than half of students in the United States are attending public schools that offer traditional full-time schedules. Now, many parents frustrated with the pace of reopening are starting to rebel.
Some are making contingency plans to relocate, home-school or switch to private education if their children’s routines continue to be disrupted this fall — a real possibility as some local school officials and teachers’ unions argue for aggressive virus mitigation measures to continue.
Other parents are filing lawsuits, agitating at public meetings, creating political action committees or running for school board seats. Most recognize the danger of the virus but believe schools can open safely.
The Philadelphia region has become a focal point of such activism. Like many left-leaning metropolitan areas across the country, its elected officials, teachers’ unions and health agencies have urged strict caution, putting most districts on hybrid schedules, while some remain fully remote. In the city of Philadelphia, a reopening deal between the teachers’ union and district appears imminent, but is expected to bring back only a portion of the youngest students.
Parents who want a full reopening may not be a majority in Philadelphia or nationally. But their voices are growing louder.
Parent activists like Clarice Schillinger are beginning to take on teachers’ unions. Ms. Schillinger started a political action committee to support school board candidates who want the option for five days per week of in-person learning.
Ms. Schillinger previously worked for a Republican state legislator, but like hundreds of thousands of other American women, has been unable to hold a job during the pandemic, in part because of the need to assist her two children with remote learning, she said. She eventually pulled her 9-year-old son out of the Hatboro-Horsham district and enrolled him in a fully open Catholic school.
“I have fought and climbed my way up to make this American dream, and I’ve done it. It’s been completely ripped away,” she said, her voice breaking. “Now I have left employment. I’m taking care of my kids. I am fighting for my children and I will not stop.”
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