DALLAS — The coronavirus pandemic has tested our resolve, but our ability to adapt in tough situations is often underestimated. WFAA profiled the Whitfield and Williams families from North Texas. Both families of six have decided on different paths for their return to school.
Parents Lee and Alisha Whitfield of Wylie have four children in four different schools. The decision to do remote learning is actually an easy decision for them. Two of their children have high health risks.
"For us, it is a matter of life or death," said Alisha.
Their oldest, Kayden, is a senior at Wylie High School. Kayden said this was certainly not the senior year that he had envisioned. He says a lot of his friends opted to return to school. A lot of those friends are a huge part of his support system.
"I feel so deprived of getting to see people or talk to people in person to where it's taking a serious emotional toll on me," said Kayden.
WFAA also connected with the Williams family from Trophy Club. Michael and Teresa Williams are both teachers, and so managing teacher schedules with their children's schedules is a massive challenge. The pandemic had resulted in their children not returning to school after spring break. Joshua Williams, 9, said it feels like it's been four years since he saw his friends because of social distancing.
The Williams decided that their children would return to campuses at Northwest Independent School District. The first weeks of school in mid-August started off remote by protocol and then the students transitioned into the classroom soon after by choice.
"For us it was the only decision because we're both working parents," said Michael Williams.
The first couple weeks of school started off rocky for the children of both families. The Whitfields had to adjust to new ways of remote learning and late schedule changes. The Williams children had to adjust to a campus and classroom that looked very different from what they were used to.
"We can't sit next to our friends at lunchtime. We have to be a seat away," said Joshua Williams.
The Williams children all have to wear masks while at school.
"I hate it. I absolutely hate it," said Liam Williams. Liam says the mask makes his glasses fog up.
It has taken a somewhat emotional toll on Kayden Whitfield, who is a graduating senior. Frustrated Kayden admits he felt several times it would be easier to just quit school.
"Izzy especially, every day, tells me she wishes COVID didn't exist," said Alisha Whitfield, referring to a comment one of her daughters makes.
Weeks into school, reality hit. The number of COVID cases mounted, as did the emails from schools alerting parents to positive cases on campus. So far, none of the children from the Williams family have had to quarantine.
"We've gotten a lot this week, three [cases] this week. This is exactly what we're all worried about," said Teresa Williams.
"I think the number of people who have it is much higher than what's been reported," said Kayden.
But it's not all sour news. Kayden has a college and scholarships waiting for him when he graduates. Both families speak of stronger bonds because of their isolation. But it's clear the pandemic has taken its toll physically, emotionally, and socially on these families.
"I don't want them to look back on their childhood and remember the year that we stayed home," said Alisha.
Neither family has regrets about their return-to-school decisions. Their family dynamics dictate the decisions they made.
"I've said from day one, small wins. You celebrate those days that are not a loss...celebrate those days that are not a loss," said Teresa.