‘We just wanted some stability’: Knox County mom talks about why she chose virtual learning

Olivia Sexton’s classroom has star-printed curtains, a bookshelf with Legos and a door filled with cat photos. That’s because the third grader’s bedroom is also her classroom.

Olivia is one of more than 18,000 Knox County students doing virtual learning for the semester. Her mom, Nita, said she wants her daughter to have structure during the uncertainty of a pandemic.

“We just wanted some stability, and we felt virtual was the best way to do that,” Nita Sexton said. “I work full-time, I can’t just break away to home school but I can assist her as needed throughout the day.”

Nita said her daughter loves math and is very social. In the summer, Nita planned enrichment activities for Olivia. She learned math, read books at night and earned Girl Scout badges virtually. Now, Nita said she hopes to play an active role in Olivia’s schooling and build a community with for her daughter.

First day: A smaller number of students returned to Knox County Schools, and it looked almost normal

“I don’t go hanging out all the time with a big group of folks anyway pre-pandemic, so I have to be intentional about finding her opportunities to be social and get that interaction.” 

While Olivia was hesitant about virtual learning at first, Nita said her daughter got more excited after she learned some of her friends were doing virtual learning. 

Back in Olivia’s classroom, Olivia’s teacher reminds the class of the importance of stretching. In other home classrooms across Knox County, there were some hiccups.

Edna Gibson, who is doing virtual learning with her three children and her nephew, said her third-grade student had issues logging into Microsoft Teams, and her high school student never received a login for his first class. 

“Other parents had the same trouble and about the first thirty minutes of class was everyone waiting on the teacher to call and help everyone get logged in,” Gibson said of her third grade student’s morning. “Each new task required the teacher to walk students slowly through the steps. About what you’d expect. It’ll get better each day. The teacher did continuously talk with the whole group while he was troubleshooting, so the students weren’t on their own.”

Gibson’s optimism for the coming days mirror Nita’s goal to be flexible and not let fear rule her family’s life. 

“There are ways to make this work and to have a happy life,” Nita said. “We’re not just staying in the house just because we chose virtual school.”



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