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E-learning vs. brick and mortar: Families struggle to decide what's best for children

Many local districts have deadlines to decide coming up in the next two weeks.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In Hillsborough County, families have until Sunday to decide whether they want to pursue an e-learning option or send students back to their brick-and-mortar schools.

“I do have the privilege to work from home, but I can't give him that one-on-one attention and work my job at the same time because they're this literally the same hours. So that's where the conflict comes in," explains mom of three, Jennifer Perez.

For Perez and her kids, e-learning also proved to be a challenge in terms of focus and progress.

"My middle son, he's going into seventh grade now, and he has an IEP (individualized education program) and e-learning is just not good for him," Perez said. "He needs that one-on-one attention.”

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For rising sophomore Keila, e-learning did not come with enough structure.

"I was constantly thinking I should probably take a break, I want to stop I don't want to keep working because I was at home so I was in that relaxed at home mindset and not too much in the school mindset," Keila said. "So I honestly I think it really did play a huge role in my decision to go back.”

Keila hopes that being around friends and connecting with teachers will make learning easier.

"I just I feel I need that real physical connection with seeing them in, like, in-person again, and just being in a school setting will probably make it easier for me to learn,” she said.

But the family knows that going back to school comes at a cost. 

“Yeah, the biggest concern is is the unknown," Perez said. "We don't have a vaccine, we don't have as much information as we do with the flu. So that's why it worries me a little more.”

Keila is worried about students abiding by the safety measures.

"There's those kids that act up and then there's also probably going to be kids that refuse to wear masks, and being genuinely unsafe to other people around them,” she said.

For some families, the health risk is too significant. 

"I have to consider my daughter's health before anything else. And there's just, it's just a mess and there's nobody given you a clear vision of what they can do to protect your kids," Shelly Martin said. Her daughter, Taylor, is a rising sophomore and also currently dealing with some other health issues. "She is concerned. I'm very concerned. 

"But she is like 'mom, I'm just not comfortable.' So this is what we've come up with.”

Perez recognizes that the decision will be challenging in unique ways for every family. For hers, she is going to send her kids back to their brick and mortar schools. 

“So it's a lot to take into consideration," she said. "And unfortunately, there's no one size fits all for anybody. So we kind of just as parents have to try to do our best.”

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