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Like many parents, Gloria Washington has come to grips with what many are calling the new normal due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. As of July, Hazelwood School District has operated in a 100% virtual school mode. Washington’s daughter Blake Washington is a first grader at Jana Elementary in the district.

The transition from traditional classes to online-only has its challenges for Gloria and Blake. The systems don’t always properly work, an internet connection isn’t always there, and Blake, whom Gloria describes as a social butterfly, genuinely misses her fellow classmates.

Blake Washington at Jana Elementary School

Blake Washington, first grader at Jana Elementary School, logged into her virtual learning system.

After voicing her frustrations via Facebook to other parents, Gloria decided to create The Support Lounge Facebook Group and Like pages with her good friend Rhonda Couch. The group allows parents and teachers to join in discussions on how to adjust to virtual school and provide tips and resources.

“I started this group because I realized after talking to other parents that it wasn’t just me stressed about virtual school,” Gloria said.

“After sharing my frustrations on Facebook, I came across a video with someone saying we need to stop complaining about virtual school and remain positive around the children. I agreed that it was important to stay positive in front of the children, but I still felt there was a need to vent. The next day I posted that I was starting a support group for parents dealing with the same stress and, boom, The Support Lounge was born.” The district offers its own Parent University program with similar support opportunities. It features workshops, videos, and resources aimed at helping parents deal with the impact the pandemic has had on education. The program places a premium on stress relief activities. More information can be found at www.hazelwoodschools.org.

Some parents work full-time from home and must tend to their children while they attend virtual learning. It’s difficult to juggle both for some, especially those with multiple children.

Gloria Washington

Gloria Washington, mother of Blake Washington, a first grader at Jana Elementary School, created The Support Lounge Facebook Group to tackle how to adjust to virtual learning.

However, Blake is an only child, and Gloria can provide her with her undivided attention. Before the pandemic hit, Gloria decided to leave her former employer. She realized she made the right decision because once she did the cases started rolling in more for COVID-19. She didn’t feel comfortable with sending Blake to daycare, so she took matters into her own hands and became a stay-at-home mother to help her full-time with school.

The Washingtons’ schedule starts at 8 a.m. with breakfast, and then they login into the school system at 8:45 a.m. The day begins with the teacher allowing room for any questions and any other sidebar conversations before class starts. Class starts promptly at 9 a.m. with the Pledge of Allegiance and announcements. As the day continues, Blake participates in electives such as gym and music. She is only given two breaks and lunch between 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Her day ends at 3:30 p.m.

By the end of the day, Gloria and her 6-year-old daughter are usually exhausted.

“Blake is still trying to adjust to the fact that this is school and process that the breaks are for using the bathroom, not a five-minute play break,” Gloria said. “Having schedules for kids and sticking to it is very important.”

Once school is dismissed, Gloria logs into The Support Lounge pages and dedicates her time to checking in with the other members. Topics in the group range from daily check-ins, updates, positive affirmations to say to the children, relatable memes and more.

“My main advice is to stay positive and appreciate that fact that your child is healthy,” Gloria Washington. “You are not alone; we are in this together. Speak positive things to your child and around your child. We are here on your good days and bad days. It’s okay to have a bad day. It’s okay not to know.”

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