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Tucson working mom of 8 concerned about learning loss in kids

Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 6:07 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A normal Tuesday at the Hartzell household, isn’t so “normal.” A set of triplets—and kids spanning from kindergarten to sophomores in high school. Eight kids total are home learning during the day.

“This is definitely not ideal,” said Rebecca Hartzell, Assistant Professor of Practice in the Special Education Program and Director of the MA program in Applied Behavior Analysis at the University of Arizona.

She is probably more prepared than most as a special education specialist, still she finds challenges. Her older four, she said are pretty independent and able to do their school work on their own for the most part.

“And then I’ll find out somebody hasn’t been in math in a week, and I’m like ‘maybe they’re not self sufficient,’” she said.

“My mind tends to wander a lot during zooms because the teacher isn’t right in front of me,” said her 15 year old son, Noah Hartzell.

Her son, Isaiah, has autism, and said he learns better in person. Isaiah said he’s had to advocate for himself many times during the year, as he just learns better in person.

“I never get c’s, and this is one of the first years I’m getting c’s,” said Noah. “I’m just better with being in school.”

This is a big concern for Rebecca, not only for her children, but others, especially those in special education. A constant disruption in education and lifestyle has hindered learning.

“Just general education children this is sort of a black hole for them, but for children with special education…I don’t know where this goes and how try and we fix this,” she said. “For children with autism behavior disorder, communication disorders, emotional regulation difficulties, this is like the worst thing that could ever happen to them, and it’s like we’re doing it to them over, and over, and over again.”

Many kids are having a hard time accessing classes with internet and connectivity issues, including them. Having eight kids on WiFi at once just wasn’t working. There was not enough bandwidth.

“I have had every internet provider in Tucson out here,” said Rebecca.

They ended up taking their youngest ones out of school and homeschooling them—taking weight off the internet and putting it right on mom’s shoulders, something seen around the nation as more women have left the workforce to help educate their kids at home. Rebecca has kept her job, so has her husband.

“I work at night,” she said. “I have to put them to bed and then start my job.”

The family has made it work by now, getting down to a routine and separate learning spaces, but heading back to hybrid again at Amphi, as a teacher said, is like the fourth first day of school.

The family is grateful to be back in the classroom a few days a week now that Amphi has reverted back to hybrid learning. The kids said something else they missed—their friends. They said it’s been hard to meet new kids and make friends when school is all online.

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