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Helping families navigate the unknowns surrounding school closures

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Posted at 9:00 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 15:49:37-05

Thousands of Arizona students are already set to resume remote learning because of spiking COVID-19 cases and there is a good chance more could be joining them after the Thanksgiving holiday.

ABC15's Karla Navarrete and Kaley O'Kelley are hosting this week's town hall, talking to experts and helping clear up confusion about school closures for parents and educators as COVID-19 cases continue rise in our state. Watch in the player below.

"I love science, science is my thing," said 12-year-old Tyler Tillotson.

"I really like more of the reading parts," said 9-year-old Ashton Tillotson.

The Tillotson boys both really love school but their feelings about learning in person are a bit different.

"Either online or in person I don’t care really," said Tyler.

"It kind of scares me in a way," said Ashton, "because we don’t know if someone in the school might have (coronavirus) when they know about (coronavirus) spiking around the area."

Their district, Tolleson Elementary, reverted to virtual learning on November 16 after only two weeks of a hybrid, in-person model.

"I swear my pain switches from one minute to the next on which I’d prefer," said Brent Tillotson, the boys' dad. He says keeping the kids focused on how they can protect others is helping them cope.

"The more that I focus on that, the more relaxed I see them become," he said.

Brent is also an eighth-grade teacher.

"I’ve got kids who are going home to situations that aren’t conducive to school, aren’t conducive to safety," he said. "It's hard, when you have a heart for kids. I have to pick and choose between the safety of my family and the well-being of these kids."

The stress is real and the roller coaster of remote or in-person learning is not helping. That is why school counselors are now working harder than ever to support students, families and staff, mostly through a screen.

"When it comes down to it, what they want, they want us to be present and they want us to show up," said Janine Menard, a school counselor at Sheely Farms Elementary School and a past chair for the Arizona School Counselors Association.

"The best thing that I find is to explain every step of the way," Menard said. "Give them the facts, let them feel sad, it’s okay, and then kind of help them through that, help them deal with that."

She says your school's counselor is a good place to start for help.

You can also call 211 for free COVID-19 crisis counseling through "Resilient Arizona."

Teen Lifeline is another great resource for teens and young adults. They can call or text 602-248-TEEN.

"Don’t do this alone, you cannot do this in isolation," said Menard. "I am sure families are feeling that way where you just don’t even have it in you to reach out for help. So, my message is, it will make you feel better if you find connection right now."