Moms look forward on education

As parents grapple with this week's announcement that K-12 schools will remain closed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, two area mothers discuss their plans.


Local News

March 19, 2020 - 10:09 AM

Jennifer Coltrane, left, and Lisa Dunne

In the wake of Tuesday’s decision by Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration to shutter all K-12 schools in Kansas in response to the COVID-19 crisis, parents are doing their best to cope and start figuring out what comes next.

The Register talked with two of these parents, Lisa Dunne and Jen Coltrane, both of whom have connections to Iola’s Parent Teacher Organization, to get a sense for their concerns, plans and more.

Dunne, the mother of a fifth-grader and a seventh-grader, as well as the fifth grade PTO building coordinator, currently works at State Farm Insurance.

She’s hopeful that her kids are old enough that she’ll be able to continue to work, while they do schoolwork either at home during the day or in the evenings.

“I’m assuming it’s going to be a lot online,” she said, and suggested one positive outcome of the school closures is flexibility.

“If they don’t feel comfortable [working alone], they can just hang out and we’ll do school in the evenings. … We’ll just change our schedules around.”

One of Dunne’s sisters lives in San Francisco, where the entire city was recently required to “shelter at home,” a phrase Dunne thought sounded more appealing than “lockdown.”

If that were the case here, at least “most of us have nice yards,” she said. “We could easily still go out in our yard and do stuff,” while maintaining a safe distance from neighbors.

If the situation in Allen County ultimately became more heightened, Dunne said she felt confident her family was prepared.

“We would just hang out at home,” she said. “We try and stay positive about everything. … We’re not ones to dwell … It’s just not helpful.”

“There are ballet professionals putting out free ballet classes [online], … authors doing readings online, places doing virtual tours,” Dunne pointed out, staying optimistic about what possible educational opportunities might be arising.

Her family also “hit the library up pretty hard when [they] heard it was closing.”

Speaking of educational opportunities, Dunne said: “We had our first laundry lesson at home the other day.”

“This is a good time to teach all those life lessons,” she laughed, adding that the lesson turned out well.

“My son was like, wow, that was pretty easy,” which in turn meant the job is now his in perpetuity.

Cooking lessons are next.

COLTRANE is the mother of a third-grader, eighth-grader and high school junior. 

A stay-at-home mom, Coltrane keeps the books on the family’s farm operation. She also serves on the USD 257 board of education.

“When the announcement came that schools were closed for the rest of the semester, I was pretty shocked,” she said.

“I think everyone was expecting a temporary closure, like two weeks. But for it to be for the rest of the semester, everyone was, like, whoa!”

In terms of the next couple months, one idea Coltrane had is to plant a garden with her kids, which they had done before on a small scale but not anything extensive.

“It usually goes to weeds,” she said, hopeful about the prospect of a larger project.

Coltrane home-schooled her oldest child back during first and second grade, so has some experience with educating her own kids.

“It’s not completely foreign to me, being home with my kids, trying to help them learn,” she said.

However, she’s still looking forward to collaborating with teachers.

“I’m hoping for some direction and support from the district,” she said, finding the thought of being completely responsible for all three of her childrens’ education to be a daunting prospect.

That being the case, “just the extra family time is always good. I like to be around my kids,” she said.

Her third-grader also liked the idea of being at home more, Coltrane said. “She thinks that sounds kind of good, not having to go to school.”

She had to remind her daughter that she’d still have to do school work, and that “it’s not going to be like summer.”

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