Inside the Gates: Military families and virtual learning

Online learning is a struggle for most families but those in the military have a few more hurdles to clear
Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 12:23 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Starting the school year across the Anchorage School District has been a challenge for staff, teachers, students and families. Military families on Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson are not immune to the struggles, in fact, it may be a little more difficult.

“I think military families are doing well but facing the same challenges as parents in the community with the technology and getting used to a whole different way of providing education for their students,” JBER Schools Liaison Officer Adele Daniels said. “More or less, feeling the pressure of being the teacher.”

While many families decide how to handle the start of the school year online, many military families do not have family help, community learning or tutor pods.

“Their families are far away and they are trying to figure out a way to work this and they may only have mom and dad and they just arrived in Alaska and haven’t made all the connections yet in the community,” JBER Director of Child and Youth Services Heather Weafer said.

Weafer says the base has initiated some conversations with families about starting parent cooperatives and even discussed some ways to provide parents with some relief.

“If one parent specializes in math, maybe that parent can be helping the children or even providing that relief because they have their children all the time and child care on base is just like child care off base, it’s a struggle right now,” Weafer said.

Despite the challenges, military families are trying to make the most of the situation.

“We’ve got some really engaged and proactive parents,” Commander of the 673rd Mission Support Group Col. Jason Delamater said. “They’re trying to work out the solutions that will work for their families, working with their supervisor’s work schedules, to be able to telework or adjust their timing to facilitate being there for their kids to help them with their calls.”

Delamater says the base understands the struggles families are facing.

“The thing I’m most proud of and really excited about is the flexibility and adaptability of the staff that we have here on the installation,” Delamater said. “We’ve got a very strong group of men and women who are responsible for watching and caring for these children and youth programs while they are doing their online learning.”

Delamater also points to the fantastic relationship the base has with the Anchorage School District.

“That has really gone a long way in helping the teachers, the parents, the families navigate the new normal here with the schools,” he said.

“Our school district principals that work on the base have done a phenomenal job of reaching out,” Weafer said. “They’ve done a great job of reaching out, providing schedules, providing information, allowing us to reach out to their tech people when our children are struggling to get on.”

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