What Parents of High Schoolers Need to Know About The Pandemic Classroom

A NC counselor gives advice for high schoolers on enduring the coronavirus-era virtual classroom. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By Max Millington

September 30, 2020

A NC counselor with the nonprofit Communities in Schools talks about ways to ensure high schoolers don’t fall through the cracks in a virtual classroom.

The adjustments in education during the pandemic have been challenging for everyone. But as the stories of parents with young children have been highlighted, the fallout for high school students and their parents has been less discussed publicly. And for those from marginalized communities, including Black, Latino and impoverished students, the challenges are amplified.

Programs like Communities In Schools (CIS) are working to make sure that these students don’t fall through the cracks, a mission that’s especially crucial given the pivot to virtual learning across the state. The CIS Charlotte affiliate (CIS-Charlotte) operates in 54 schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) district, providing case-management services to more than 6,000 students annually. 

In Mecklenburg County, nearly 20% of children live in poverty and 80 schools are identified as high-poverty and high-minority or Title I (a federal funding designation for schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families). 

Statewide, one in four children live in poverty, and more than one in ten live in extreme poverty, according to data from Public Schools First NC. 

Ronnie Compton is a Communities In Schools (CIS) counselor at Harding University High School, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Title I school in west Charlotte, where he works to make sure at-risk students don’t fall through the cracks. 

Cardinal & Pine asked Compton to share advice for families who are trying to manage their child’s high school education, while preparing for life after graduation. 

C&P: What tips would you give to high school parents as virtual learning continues?

Compton: The first thing I would say is just be patient. Just as it’s new for educators and students, it’s also new for the parents. We’re all trying to figure this out and we’re all trying to find out the best ways and the best tools to navigate through this. Second, make sure that you are holding your children accountable. Make sure they’re logging on, following up with their teachers if they’re not understanding something and asking for help. 

Third, make sure you’re holding your child’s teacher accountable. I’ve seen a lot of instances where teachers are just ending class early and not getting on(line) at the right time. Your child deserves the same amount of time of learning that they would get in the classroom. 

Lastly, be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. These really aren’t normal times, but we’re going to have to learn how to navigate through this. Just be open and don’t be so quick to throw out new things that may come up to try to support the child the best.

C&P: What tips do you have for parents who are trying to prepare their child for college?

Compton: You have to be honest with yourself first and foremost. This virtual time has given a lot of people a new perspective. If (your child) is already struggling, and they don’t like the online platform of learning, you may need to look at a school, maybe a community college, that may still be meeting in-person with limited capacity. Because a lot of the four-year colleges and universities are learning virtually. So you want to make sure that (your child) is ready and mature enough to handle this virtual platform of classes. So if they’re not, I would say seek other options. 

Second, with the pandemic, there’s been a lot of uncertainty. So definitely seek out the best financial option for you and your family. I tell people all the time, it doesn’t matter where you go because we all end up the same. You may need to look at a community college or another option and be okay with doing that.

C&P: On the other hand, what do you think colleges can do to better accommodate students?

Compton: I think just communicating about what new updates are happening and what expectations are. I would also say that being flexible is another thing, you have to find creative ways to still engage and make sure that students are learning and just being engaged and they’re still getting that what it feels like to have college experience. 


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