No Right Answer: Education Options in the Time of COVID-19

There have been no easy answers or simple solutions this year. COVID-19 has ripped through our lives in a way that none of us could have imagined or predicted. Anything that was once normal is gone, and a return to “normalcy” is a long way off — if it happens at all.

As parents, we have faced an onslaught of difficult decisions over the last six months.

Difficult decisions that are made harder because there is simply no right answer. No matter what we decide, we will undoubtedly second guess ourselves at every turn. And no decision has been harder than how we should handle our children’s education. 

We entered the month of August with no idea of what the start of the school year would look like. This wasn’t due to lack of planning on our school districts’ behalf, but rather a result of the unpredictability of what each coming week will look like. Plans changed at every turn as a result of community spread, politics, university decisions, public opinion . . .  the list goes on.

And there was nothing we could do about it. 

Since August, those of us with Iowa City Moms have reached out to one another for support, guidance, reassurance, and a safe place to simply vent. In our discussions, one thing became abundantly clear: 

What works best for one family will not necessarily work for another. 

We needed options, and (most) of our districts offered them. Below are some of the thoughts that went into the Iowa City Moms’ decision making between online, hybrid, or in-person learning. 

image of little girl in front of a laptop


100% Online Learning

Iowa City, Clear Creek Amana, Solon, Regina, and West Branch Community school districts offered 100 percent online learning options. Eleven members of Iowa City Moms opted for this option and below are some of the reasons for their decision.

This won’t be forever. Whatever socialization they receive in face-to-face instruction won’t be remotely comparable to the normal socialization of school. Additionally, I would much rather my daughter lose a year of seeing her friends in-person than have to deal with the trauma and permanent scarring of losing a friend, teacher, administrator, parent, grandparent, or anyone in her life.”

“Our decision was driven by the fact that our kids will do fine online, they are pretty good at staying focused, and the things that make school fun (band, theater, hanging with friends) won’t be happening anyway. Plus two fewer kids in the buildings makes it that much safer for kids who do need to be in the classroom.”

“Our family chose online because it feels like the right thing to do. We want to limit risk of exposure to teachers, staff, and children (and all of their extended contacts) and the best way we could do that was by staying home. Online also allows us to remain as consistent with our schedules as possible, instead of changing which days are at school/at home. With four students in three school buildings, that felt the least overwhelming for our family.”

“Same as above regarding exposure, consistency and ability. I trust our school administration and school board, and virtual was their choice before local control was stripped away. Also, we didn’t consider homeschooling or private because I want our enrollment to count toward 2021-2022 funding allocation.”

“For us it really came down to the types of businesses I run from home. I knew that exposure was inevitable being on-site. Once that exposure occurred, I would have to close my businesses during quarantine periods. There’s no way of knowing how many times that would occur and I can’t responsibly run businesses like that. I also have a responsibility to the families I care for.”

100% In-Person Learning

Clear Creek Amana, Solon, and Regina community school districts offered 100 percent in-person learning options. Two members of Iowa City Moms opted for this option and below are the reasons for their decision.

My husband and I both work full time. The spring showed us that my younger two children are not able to be independent online learners. My work days are packed full of phone calls and meetings. Even though I work at home, I’m not consistently able to be available to help my kids throughout the day. My husband and I carefully read the precautions that our children’s school will be taking. Their plans closely align with what I have seen be successful in my workplace, which has been caring for hundreds of children throughout the pandemic these last six months. My kids are also already at a school that has small class sizes, and we think they’ll be further reduced because many families will take the online option. Factoring all of this together, we felt that the best option for our family would be in-person.”

“Hybrid was not a choice in our school district, and if that was an option we would have done it. We are sending them back in-person. My son needs socialization. He thrives with other kids. Towards the end of the school year, we really struggled with the virtual stuff. He didn’t do well in front of a computer. Now that being said we will probably end up virtual at some point, and when that happens, we will adjust and figure it out. I feel a lot of guilt saying these words. All of this is so hard.”

Hybrid Learning

Iowa City, West Branch, College Community, and Regina community school districts offered hybrid learning options. Six members of Iowa City Moms opted for this option and below are some of the reasons for their decision.

Biggest reason is that we ALL need space from each other and an all online option I honestly felt would not go over well (my daughter automatically pushes back on ANYTHING I tell her to do). So, I guess ultimately it came down to mental sanity for all of us. Plus, since March I haven’t been able to put in the best effort with my actual job with having both kids home with me 24/7. I’m sure these reasons are somewhat selfish, but if we continue to all be home together all the time someone isn’t going to survive!”

“For our family we went with hybrid mostly due to my daughter’s young age and the amount of time we would realistically be able to work on schooling. She is 5-years-old and has no idea yet how to use a computer. If she was older I think I would have chosen online. We are both working during the day but our plan is to try to work our little butts off on the days she’s at school so we can be more flexible when she’s home. I also really appreciate everything Iowa City is doing to make school as safe an environment as possible, and really owe it to the people willing to keep their kids home because it looks like the on-site numbers are around 50 percent.”


I hope we can be kind to one another as we navigate the new world we have been thrown into. What may seem like a bad decision to me may be the only good option for another family.

Let’s be kind to one another, listen to one another, and support one another. While we may not all agree on what the best form of education for our children is, I think there is one thing we can agree on: 

This absolutely sucks.

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Caroline is an Arizona native who moved to Iowa in 2007 ‘for love.’ She and her husband live in Coralville with their 8-year-old daughter. Caroline works full-time at the University of Iowa and recently earned her MA in Higher Education Administration. Caroline is a self-taught sewer, fabric hoarder, Starbucks lover, wannabe graphic designer, and avid reader. Her greatest aspirations are to raise a kind, strong, and fearless girl and have a clean house.

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