Early Monday morning, 5-year-old Mia Linton held up a handmade sign and posed for pictures in the front yard, marking the first day of school. Then, the new kindergarten student turned around and walked back inside to begin class.
Linton is one of thousands of D.C.-area students who began her first day of kindergarten by grabbing a tablet and finding someplace comfortable to sit. A few minutes after 8 a.m., after a few connection problems, she began the school year at Tulip Grove Elementary, in Bowie, inside a virtual classroom.
Her next six hours, most of them spent in front of a tablet, were booked, even if she wasn’t on school property.
“I’m concerned. It’s a lot,” said the student’s mom, Christina Linton.
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The mom said she’s worried about not just the screen time, but the ability of a 5-year-old to keep the attention span needed to get through the school day. Never mind a little sister who has to be shooed into the other room so Mia Linton can concentrate
“I just don’t know how you can keep a kid concentrating for that long,” said Christina Linton. “Even the one hour sneak-a-peek on Friday, she was like, ‘Can we be done? Am I done yet?’ and it was only an hour. So, six hours? I’m interested in seeing how that’s going to play out.”
That said, Christina Linton has spent a lot of time trying to figure out how she’ll make it work every day, with a husband who travels a lot and a younger daughter needing to be dropped off at preschool in the middle of her older child’s first class.
“The wheels have been turning for me for a while,” the mother of two said.
Her solution? Turning her phone into a wireless hot spot.
“Putting her on a hot spot to drive to drop off the other child and come back home,” Christina Linton said. “I know I’m probably not the exception to the rule. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of parents doing that.”
“Yeah, some of her school work will be done from the car,” the mother said.
As the first hour went on, Mia Linton got pretty adept at taking her classroom on the go. She started in a room off the kitchen and, by the end, had walked away with the tablet into another room in the house where she finished the first hour, seemingly focused.
When it was time for a break, she ran around the house some more and could pay attention to her 4-year-old sister again — at least for a little bit — while her parents hoped things will go that smoothly the rest of the year, too.