Recently, the Tampa Bay Times published a spotlight titled “Schools of Thought” that featured local parents commenting about their plans for school this fall, including Canterbury parent Kanika Tomalin. As you would imagine, plans vary across the Tampa Bay area just like they vary within our own Canterbury community. 

In a recent virtual session with faculty and staff, Dr. Jen Katzenstein, the Director of Psychology and Neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, reminded us that this is an unprecedented time of stress and anxiety for everyone. Each family is enduring their own unique stressors and personal situations. Whether that is health concerns, work demands, or social stresses, there is a lot bubbling and breathing beneath the “mask” we all wear these days.

We checked in with a few of our families to get their perspectives.

students at desk in a socially distanced classroom

The McCue Family

Olivia is in 5th grade and has returned to school as a virtual student for the first semester as their family has been caring for Olivia’s grandfather who has been undergoing chemotherapy.  

“We agonized over the choice of in school vs virtual learning for our daughter, Olivia.  Canterbury provided several virtual time frame options to allow us flexibility. We chose the virtual term because this fits our current circumstances. Our mind is at ease because we feel confident in the systems put in place by Canterbury teachers to ensure that Olivia not only gets the class assignments and recorded sessions but also live teaching sessions. Each teacher has really reached out to Olivia so that the communication is open and welcoming despite Olivia working from home. Olivia also communicates with her peers through a group chat so that they can all be available to each other for support.” - Ashley McCue

“I like the way the classes and day are set up. It is easy to see assignments and submit them when I’m done.” - Olivia McCue

girl at her desk at home

 

The Hawk Family

 Mason is in 9th grade and returned for in-person classes. His mother, Lisa was relieved to know that her son felt safe at school.

 

The Doughty Family 

Nolan is in 7th grade and has returned for in-person classes. His brother attends a Pinellas County middle school and has returned to school virtually. His sister attends a different Pinellas County elementary school and is attending in-person classes. 

“When deciding on how we would proceed with back to school, there was absolutely no question as to whether we would send Nolan to Canterbury in person. He was so anxious to see his friends and teachers, and since we were lucky enough to have all three of our kids participate in summer camps on the Knowlton campus, we had insight into the precautions and safety measures the school would be taking in the fall. The size of the school and classes as well as the familial atmosphere are two other reasons we were comfortable with in-person learning at Canterbury. We just had a peace that the adults on campus would look out for our son the same way we would.” - Rebekah Doughty

 

The Tomalin Family

Nia is in 11th grade and returned to school in-person. Nia's mother Kanika was interviewed by the Tampa Bay Times about their family's plans to return to school this year. She expanded on her reasons for having her daughter return to campus as well.

family of three pose
newspaper clip
Courtesy of Tampa by Times

“Canterbury’s steadfast commitment to meet the needs of each student, in keeping with their unique situations, is affirmation of the many reasons to be a part of this special community. Challenges and obstacles are an unfortunate reality of this time. It is a great relief to know that with the partnership of Canterbury my daughter’s educational priorities, opportunities and goals remain as real a possibility as well.” - Kanika Tomalin
 

 

The Arvin Family

Jackson has started first grade with in-person classes.  With their family's busy work schedule, it was only choice that worked for them at this time.

“We feel so fortunate that Jackson had the opportunity to go back to Canterbury in person. Just like every parent out there, we anguished over making the right decision for our family... but we came to the conclusion that for OUR son, in-person learning was the best fit for the current situation." 

"We are still prepared that he may have to go virtual if things change, but we wanted him to have the opportunity to meet his teacher, have a connection with her and his classmates. That way, if they do have to go virtual again, he would know and respond to his teacher better."

"Also, a huge factor for us is that we both work full-time running 3 restaurants. With no family or nanny care here, it would be extremely difficult to devote the recommended amount of time to Jackson for his studies. He thrives and learns in social environments, and we discovered back in the spring how difficult it was for him to stay focused virtually." 

"We are so thankful for the opportunity given to make the best choice for our family’s needs. We have full faith that Canterbury will do what it takes to try to stay open during this difficult time. We are so thankful for all of the efforts put forth from the teachers and staff.” - Gwen Arvin
 

boy posing with a first day of school sign

 

The Lavender Family

girls on their first day of school

For my family, we decided to have our girls return to school virtually for the first three and a half weeks. It was a decision met with tears and resistance, but eventually, our girls came to understand that we were considering the high-risk people in our lives. We wanted to see how the coronavirus numbers would change across the state once school started to better assess the risk. Alternatively, we might have to forgo seeing certain family members that have complicating factors for a while. 

We discussed with our girls the importance in considering that each family’s decision is made out of their experiences as well as their circumstances. We recently lost a family friend due to coronavirus. He was young but immunocompromised, and the virus was too much for his body to fight. Certainly, having that experience has impacted our choice, but having alternative options to start the year helped relieve some of the stress with returning to school. 

Dr. Katzenstein's words have lingered in my mind in the days after her virtual meeting and throughout the start of school. Every family has their own unique perspective, challenges, and comfort level in dealing with the coronavirus and their family's health. I reached out to Dr. Katzenstein who had the following resources to share for family's looking for more information about the virus, anxiety, and other topics: 

https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/General-News/Managing-Anxiety-for-Return-to-School

https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/General-News/How-to-Talk-to-Your-Kids-about-Coronavirus

Other resources from Johns Hopkins All Childrens