With The Push Of The Power Button, Online Learning Begins For Two DPS Students — And Their Nervous Parents

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Natalie Perez Wants Son Learning Online Asa School Opens During The Pandemic
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Natalie Perez at Barbaco at El Oso, the restaurant that her family owns on South Federal Boulevard in Denver. She’s navigating the stress of trying to figure out how and when her son Roman will return to school and has decided that he’ll stay home and learn online because of underyling health conditions during the pandemic.

Denver first-grader Chase Carroll put on his school uniform Monday morning, got in his mom's car and headed off to his local daycare, where staffers supervised his first day of online learning.

Tina Carroll spent Sunday reminding her son how to log on to his laptop and setting his password for him so he’d be ready for the big day. 

As a single working mom who can’t stay home, Carroll waited nervously for months to learn if and when Chase could get back in the classroom. When Denver Public School officials announced students would learn remotely through at least mid-October, she made 56 phone calls to find a place for her son. She’ll share the $220 weekly daycare fee with her mother and sister. It's a fee that could jump $40 depending on the hours her son spends there.

“It’s totally different, so even though I know that he's resilient and able to adapt very easily. I'm nervous for him,” she said. “I’m hoping that by sacrificing he still gets a school-day kind of atmosphere.”

In west Denver, fourth-grader Roman Ortiz logged on to school from home Monday. 

“He seems to be having a good time,” his mom Natalie Perez said a couple of hours into the day. “He was really excited to start school today even though it’s a little different. He woke up super early.”

Perez and her husband own a small restaurant and food truck. She’s off Mondays and Tuesdays, but on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, Roman will go to work with her.

“He’ll be sitting in the back and hopefully I’ll be able to check on him. I’m just nervous as to how it will look once we go to work on Wednesday,” Perez said.

Roman and Chase both attend Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest. They are among about 90,000 students who began learning from home last spring after schools shut down and returned to their computers on Monday.

Roman has an underlying medical condition and probably will stay home even after that.

Perez said Roman did well last spring. This summer he said he was fine learning remotely again. But it was strange, and a little sad, when they went by his school recently to pick up his belongings.

“We got to the school and there were barely any people there … When we were walking back to the car it just reminded me we used to do that every day and now who knows when we’ll be able to do it again,” Perez said.

In these early days, Tina Carroll is pushing hard to get Chase into a school routine.

“I'll still drop him off as I would normally do for school. He will have a laptop with him in his book bag. He will have earphones in his book bag. He will also have a dry erase board … so his backpack will be a little bit heavier than mine coming to work,” she said.

Chase will write on the dry erase board and then show his work to the screen. The idea came up when Carroll met with her son’s teacher before school started.

“That was one of my questions: How are we going to work on the writing (and) that hand-eye coordination? And so that was one of their solutions,” Carroll said.

She’ll also coach Chase when they’re home.

“I've already started working on the sight words and games and stuff that we can play to make sure that we're successful,” Carroll said.

Perez said she’s optimistic about Roman’s school year.

“He still gets to see his teachers every day, he’ll still be able to see kids every day, even if it’s through the camera,” she said. “I’m just trying to make it the least stressful for him that I can and I hope it goes well.”

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the school that Roman and Chase attend. This story was also updated to clarify the costs Tina Carroll saw with daycare.