KDKA surveyed almost 1,000 people from nine different counties about learning during the pandemic.By Kristine Sorensen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – School has been impacted by the pandemic more than most other institutions, and it’s having a big effect on families.

KDKA surveyed viewers on how they’re handling these changes. We got almost 1,000 responses from parents in nine counties.

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School in COVID looks a lot different than school in a normal year. It’s often on the couch. Eleven-year-old Lula Emeric started middle school on her couch at her home in Brentwood. She and her mom, Jennifer, are having a tough time with the hybrid and at-home learning. Jennifer calls it a “hot mess”.

“It’s overall just stressful. We fight a lot. Honestly, (there’s) a lot of drama. School becomes something we don’t even enjoy anymore,” Jennifer says.

Lula says she is, “very lonely, very confused, sometimes out of place, like I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go.”

Lula and Jennifer are now going to therapy, and they’re not alone in feeling the stress. Seventy-five percent of the surveyed parents with kids in hybrid school say they feel stress.

About two-thirds say their kids are struggling with not seeing or connecting with friends, not connecting with teachers and trying to find a routine in the hybrid schedule.

More than half of parents with kids in hybrid school say their child is struggling or not doing nearly as well as a traditional year both socially and emotionally.

Zachary Hathaway also made the couch his new fourth grade classroom. His family chose the all-remote option through Peters Township school District. He and his sister Alyssa, a high school junior at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School, are adapting well, but like 67 percent of the hybrid kids in the survey, Alyssa has a hard time concentrating doing school at home.

“I do school in my room, so, my bed’s right there. My dog is usually in my room with me, and there’s just a lot of distractions. Plus, I can be on my phone easier,” Alyssa says.

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Forty-two percent of families in our survey who have kids in full-remote school said they feel their child is learning significantly less or not nearly as much as a traditional year, and more than two-thirds, 65 percent, of parents with kids in hybrid school feel their child is suffering academically.

Zachary is lucky his mom was once a fourth grade teacher.

Zachary says his school year is “Going pretty well. I’ve been able to handle it all really well, and, honestly, I don’t mind if it’s online or not.”

His mom, Sondra, feels her kids have less exposure to COVID-19 by doing school at home.

“Right now, it just reassures me that they’re safe, and that’s the biggest thing for me,” Sondra Hathaway says.

For families with support networks, the changes have been easier. Ann Bliss watches her grandchildren, including first grader Charlotte Kunkle in the Woodland Hills School District. “There are some limitations, of course, but so far from what we’ve seen, she’s doing very well, and she gets lots of interaction with her teacher who is wonderful.”

Most kids are adapting and learning how to handle change. Charlotte says, “I barely remember my mom saying before COVID, ‘Let’s go to Kennywood’ or something like that and then this happened.”

Almost 8 percent of our responders said they switched schools for this school year, and 22 percent considered it but didn’t have any good or available options to do that.

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More than two-thirds of the families say they have benefited from more time with immediate family, and many say their kids are learning valuable life skills, including coping and computer skills.

Kristine Sorensen