BELLEVUE, Wash. — Five-year-old Kai McLawsen is starting kindergarten in the fall, but his family doesn’t know which school he will be attending. What the Bellevue family does know is what their local elementary school has planned for learning is not for them.
"We very clearly decided at the end of last year that remote learning was not going to work. Period,” said Greg McLawsen, Kai’s father.
The McLawsens live in Bellevue, where the school district, like several others in western Washington, is starting the school year with online learning.
The family is all too familiar with how the remote lessons went when the coronavirus pandemic first broke out in March and schools closed. Kai could not stay engaged in classes that shifted from a classroom to the living room via Zoom. The experience was frustrating for the family.
The couple decided to be proactive and prepare for the worst if schools remained closed to in-person learning in the fall. They are now considering moving out of state for their son to go to school in person.
Kai is now enrolled in five schools around the world. One is in Hawaii where Kai’s mother, Jules, grew up and still has family. Two schools are in British Columbia, Canada, which would be easy to attend since the couple’s kids have dual citizenship.
The McLawsens also registered Kai in a Montessori school in Thailand, where speaking the local language isn’t required. Other than the fact that they love the country, they have no ties to Thailand.
Just in case circumstances change in the Puget Sound region, Kai is also registered at Enatai Elementary, his local school in Bellevue. Jules and Greg choose to register their son in five schools around the world because they’re prepared to uproot the family and go somewhere where cases of COVID-19 are low and schools are safely opening for in-person learning.
“The fact that we can do this is very uncommon,” said Greg McLawsen. “We are aware of what that looks like for those who don't have that flexibility. The family is making this drastic move because they’re concerned about the impact that remote learning will have on Kai's social and emotional skills, something the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics, have expressed as a reason to reopen schools.”
“He's a very social kid, and for him to learn without other children, fits with his needs,” explained Jules McLawsen.
Before the pandemic, the couple was working remotely. Greg is an immigration attorney and Jules as a psychologist. They’ll be able to continue to work from home wherever they go. They have to make their decision soon, as schools in Hawaii starts the second week of August.
As of now, Jules is leaning towards Canada while Greg wants to fly to the other side of the globe to Thailand.
Regardless of their decision, the family plans to stay in the city they choose for as long as they can and do what is best for the family.