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Local mothers discuss changes, resources as children return to school

PITTSBURGH — The Everyday Cafe was the perfect place for everyday moms to talk about education.

Nichole Sims cares for her 11-year-old granddaughter in public school and her 15-year-old daughter in a private high school.

“The COVID pandemic really just illuminated all of the inconsistencies and the inequities that alredy existed in this region, and in particular, in public school,” Sims said.

Depending on where you live and what school your child attended, some students didn’t skip a beat, but others lost weeks and months of learning from the pandemic.

For Muffy Mendoza, a former homeschooling mom, it was easy enough for her to step in and fill the gap.

But what about the many other students who, despite parents’ best efforts, have fallen behind?

“My kids were out of school for 45 days and nobody asked about homework — nothing they didn’t get any work,” Mendoza said.

Tracey Reed Armant is a newly elected Pittsburgh public school board member. She also has a 17-year-old  daughter who attends the city’s Science and Technology Academy.

“There’s really good evidence that remediation is not the way to go, that it’s acceleration,” Armant said.

“If we are getting ready for work and we are running late, we don’t stop to say, ‘Have I really thought about what I’m going to do today?’ No, we hurry up; we rush and we try to make up time,” Armant continued.

The pandemic initially slowed things down, but since 2020, many things left behind have now caught up.

The current bus driver shortage is one of these examples.

Many middle schoolers are now being asked to take a city bus to and from school, and that directly impacts Sims’ granddaughter.

“She is supposed to catch a (city) bus, she is 11 years old, in the sixth grade, a (city) bus, which is not going to happen,” Sims said.

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Families are also facing new mental health issues, as people have been pulled apart from months of social distancing, closed off behind masks and unable to celebrate milestones:

“Attending to our kids’ mental health isn’t always therapy. It’s sometimes a day off, it’s sometimes going to lunch, it’s some of those things and it can be therapy,” Armant said.

“With everything going on in (our) lives, we keep and maintain a consistent spirtual routine, whatever that looks like for families,” Sims said.

“You need to know your child’s personality. You need to know what makes them tick,” Mendoza said.

As we press the reset button, the mothers agree not to set expectations too low for your children.

“It’s what is called the ‘warm demander.’ You are kind. You recognize who they are as inviduals, but you still have demands,” Armant said.

And ultimately, you are your child’s best advocate.

“Your kid is going to change teachers, they’re going to change schools. They are not going to change parents,” Mendoza said.

Remember, you are in it for the long haul. Ask for help.

There are a lot of mental health resources available if your child is struggling from learning loss.

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