In March 2020 schools across the country had to adapt to an online only model. Overnight, parents scrambled to accommodate their schedules to their children’s redesigned school day. Initially, schools were relieved that MacBooks and iPads were in use over the past few years. However, the pandemic would stretch resources and reveal serious cracks in the system that would challenge teachers and parents.

            I wondered what the schools were doing to address the mounting issues and how parents were coping. I was employed with Greenfield Central schools for several years prior to returning to school to finish my degree. After some conversation with former colleagues about the pandemic, many issues came to light.  As I spoke with teachers in other districts I began to see patterns in some problematic areas.

            To begin this research, I placed notices on social media, and I received a great deal of interest. A few parents and teachers were particularly helpful and detailed, others offered some insight during more casual interviews, and a few showed initial interest but didn’t respond to the written questions. Given the nature of the questions regarding administration and critiques of the school’s management of the pandemic, most teachers requested to remain anonymous. After fielding responses, I realized they came from all over the State. I had responses from Indianapolis, Kokomo, Seymour, Greenfield, and many other cities and rural areas.

            The challenges that surfaced immediately began with internet issues that teachers were not trained to fix. The online only model and student engagement was concerning for students who had no access to the internet or who had limited or intermittent access due to technical issues and location. Students who typically received help from teaching assistants and other staff no longer had these resources and those who benefitted from assistance programs for free and reduced lunch and other aid were left uncertain as to what would happen. Parents were also concerned with the drastic shift to online only. They frantically changed their schedules and attempted to assist in the all-day education of their children as well as marinating work from home. Those who had to continue to work away from home were left in even more dire circumstances. This paper will provide how parents and teachers in one midwestern state, Indiana, managed this crisis in both cities and rural towns.

Equity and Internet Access

            The first assumption that State officials made concerning the stay-at-home orders was that everyone had equal access to the internet. Although students did have laptops and iPads for a few years now, many parents did not have service at home, and some had unreliable service. The problem wasn’t contained to just Indiana. Across the country disparity in internet education persisted, “Some 500,000 households lack reliable connection in New York City, for example; in Chicago, 1 in 5 students don’t have broadband, according to data published at the start of the pandemic” (Poon 2021). The power fell out of the hands of administrators and seemed to rely on  creating new policy and revising legislation. “18 states have restrictive legislation in place that make establishing community broadband prohibitively difficult” (Cooper 2021,1).

            When I interviewed the parents, they made clear that schools offered no options outside of students logging on the internet and finishing work. One parent illustrated the inflexible expectations when asked if alternatives were offered for students who didn’t have access to the internet, “No, classes were scheduled, and if you didn’t have internet or it wasn’t working, there was no recourse.”

            Teachers did what they could and offered help during class. Still, when charging through material that removed the flexibility once offered in school to stay after class or meet during a study hall, assistance was limited. All of the teachers I spoke with talked about the egregious amount of time it took to change all lessons to online learning. Previously, schools promoted interactive activities for learning, particularly if they operated on a block schedule where classes are longer with some on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and others Tuesday and Thursday. Teachers were encouraged to create lessons to get students out of their seats for a while, so math may include solving problems in a scavenger hunt set up around the classroom. However, online students needed to be seen on the screen the entire time. This proved difficult for many who were accustomed to more interactive learning. Adding technology issues on top and teachers expressed feeling as though administration expected them to sink or swim.

            Hybrid teaching didn’t improve matters and, in some cases, created additional complications. One teacher described how the hybrid model didn’t help “I experience almost daily disruptions from technology; it’s honestly worse in a hybrid model. The school’s WiFi can’t handle the entire faculty and student body on the internet at once, so trying to teach the in person students while teaching the virtual students is almost impossible.”

Socializing and Networking

            The social life of students was another concern. Adolescence is especially important in the social lives of teens. Classes and extracurricular activities were places where most teens creative and maintained their relationships. Turning to social media online became a critical outlet. “As of late November, only about 35% of K-12 students in the U.S. are attending in-person classes daily, according to Burbio, a data service that aggregates school and community calendars; the rest are doing either fully remote or attending a mix of in-person and online classes. After-school activities and sports are likewise limited, and many libraries and youth centers are closed indefinitely. For many younger people, teen life has largely migrated online, to social media platforms like Instagram and Discord” (Crawford 2020, 1).

            In fact, it seems teens have fared better with transitioning their social contacts primarily online. “Teens, whose opportunities for adult-free socializing were already limited by school, parents and mall cops, have adapted better than most. Many of them already orchestrated their social lives online, making quarantine an easier transition” (Lange 2020). This was especially beneficial when considering disparities between the affluent and lower income families. “For some teens, especially in urban areas or low-income families, private hangout spaces were hard to find even before the pandemic, and digital spaces were long considered a place of refuge: (Lange 2020).

            It’s important to note that the advantages of this online space and the equity it can provide doesn’t translate to equality for everyone. Internet access is not available or affordable to everyone. “Equity concerns about access and control of public space don’t disappear when teens are at home; for some they are exacerbated, due to limitations on their time online or access to costly games and devices. Quick-thinking organizations serving Black and Brown teens have already begun working online to address some of those issues” (Lange 2020).

            This once again brings into question policy and regulation. The internet is more than a social need and the pandemic has highlighted this need. It provided a way for many parents to work away from home and teachers to continue to teach as students were able to shelter at home. Previously parents without internet adapted by accessing their local library or a hotspot at a local business. As the internet has become work, school, banking, shopping and socializing the needs have outgrown those accommodations. “As many local governments have scrambled to secure internet access for children in virtual school, some policies could last past the pandemic. One popular approach in cities like Washington, D.C., and Chicago has been providing low-cost or free service to families who can’t afford a broadband subscription, and the tech devices to go with them” (Poon 2021). Still, even with new legislation infrastructure has to support all families. “While equipping homes with wireline broadband is typically thought of as the gold standard, few cities have the infrastructure ready. In the absence of an extensive network of municipal-owned cables, some communities are establishing wireless networks to connect low-income students to free or low-cost internet” (Poon 2021).

A Mother’s Work

            While praising mothers and the “disproportionate amount of weight they carry managing the household” California Governor Newsom not only played. Into the problematic gender roles that plague equity for all, but he operated under the assumption that all mothers were able to stay home with their children. These privileged assumptions aren’t new, and they don’t help parents. Take, for example, “Yesenia who primarily speaks Spanish and whose son had not signied onto google for class. She is a single mother and essential worker who is unable to be home in the morning to monitor her children” (Donaldson, 2020). When I spoke with one mother who was able to stay home with her son she expressed concern. “I cannot help him with chemistry and geometry at all…so when he would get frustrated. His GPA has suffered, and it makes me worry about him getting into college”

            With all of this in mind there is much to consider as we move toward Fall semester. IPS is planning on going ahead with state testing. Many teachers oppose this and for good reason. Schools gain funding from performing well. Teachers raises are largely considered based on ILEARN test results, and students are placed in advanced or below grade level courses starting in 4th grade as a result of those scores. Government officials are once again replacing the judgment of those who work with students daily with their own. “Gov. Eric Holcomb believes assessments are a tool for gauging the impact the pandemic has had on students’ learning, and “understanding where we are today in order to focus on closing student learning gaps,” said Rachel Hoffmeyer, the governor’s press secretary.”

            If you ask a teacher, preparedness plans are necessary now that we have experienced the jolt of a pandemic and being unable to return to school. When I asked what they would hope for should another emergency like this happen many expressed not only having a plan, but the desire to be a part of the conversation. Many felt that administration didn’t really listen to their concerns. Teachers are the best source to consult since they are in the school 180 days a year. Many of their comments echoed one another. “If we had another lock down, I would hope that admin would be able to make sure that students had access to wifi and that we would all have a better idea of how to reach the students. I know I have grown in my tech skills by leaps and bounds this year. I would also hope that our expectations would be able to be a bit stronger. Crisis management mode was hard on all of us.” Others have expressed feeling burnt out and exploited. “I have worked more this past year than in any year in the past. Not only am I not being compensated for TWO of my six classes I am teaching, I was genuinely forced to pay for my own sub when I asked to continue working from home when they returned to I person instruction. My workload is unbearable, and I am strongly considering leaving the profession because of how the school system handled this year.”


Cooper Tyler Cooper is the Editor-in-chief at BroadbandNow. He has more than a decade of experience in the telecom industry, Tyler. “Municipal Broadband Is Restricted In 18 States Across The U.S. In 2021.” BroadbandNow, April 13, 2021.

Crawford, Amy. “With Schools Shut, Teens Seek a Space of Their Own.” Bloomberg, November 30, 2020.

Donaldson, Lindsay. “Covid-19, (In)Visible Mothers, and the State.” Society for Cultural Anthropology, May 11, 2020.

Donaldson, Lindsay. “Covid-19, (In)Visible Mothers, and the State.” Society for Cultural Anthropology, May 11, 2020.

Lange, Alexandra. “Where the Teens Are Hanging Out in Quarantine.” Bloomberg, November 24, 2020.

Loughlin, Sue. “ILEARN Test Returns Statewide This Spring.” Tribune Star, January 23, 2021.

Poon, Linda. “ To Bridge the Digital Divide, Cities Tap Their Own Infrastructure.” Bloomberg, February 8, 2021.