'He's just overwhelmed': Single father shares challenges of virtual learning

Posted at 5:08 AM, Oct 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-22 05:08:32-04

SUFFOLK, Va. - Aiden Mills has always been a good student, but starting off the 6th grade virtually has been tough.

"[I walked into his room and] he had his head down and he was just bawling, silent, just bawling. I was like 'what's wrong?' He said 'I just can't, Dad.' He's just overwhelmed," said David Mills.

As a single father of two middle schoolers, in Suffolk Public Schools, David Mills said he's done the best he can. Knowing school would be virtual this Fall, he tried to be as prepared as possible.

"We bought calendars, desks, we got chairs in their rooms, you know so they have their own comfortable space," he said.

He bought routers and mobile hotspots, but still, he said nearly every week since September they have run into problems.

"The issues that were finding is that HAC and Canvas don't match up. Whether it be the assignment itself, whether it be the due date, we're constantly back and forth between the programs [and missing assignments]," he said.

As a father he said the hardest thing is to see the mental toll it is taking on his children. He said, "I have them going into counseling because I'm having at least one of them having a breakdown every other day. It's terrible to see your kid balled up, you know, just crying his eyes out because he used to get good grades - great grades. Then now we're getting C's, D’s and F’s."

Mills said he has also run into a lot of connectivity issues and his kids will often have to go back and re-watch the portions of classed that they missed, adding to their schoolwork for the day.

He said he's reached out to the school board for help, but nothing concrete has happened yet.

The school district said there are Resource Access Centers for connectivity troubles and programs (Social Emotional Learning) available to help students emotional well-being.

Superintendent John Gordon said "using our Fall Learning Plan, Educate and Innovate, will utilize the teacher as the primary mode of instruction with several online platforms such as Canvas, our new learning management system, iReady (for Elementary students), Edgenuity (for Secondary students), and Google Classroom. Since school closed on March 13, 2020 our staff has worked tirelessly to create an engaging, innovative, and structured learning environment."

Mills would like to see more action, specifically when it comes to reducing the number of programs students use. He said, "my proposal would be to streamline it better, for the school board to say no you need to stick with just one platform."

The district is also working on a safe hybrid plan to get kids back in the classroom part-time in November.