The Lester family has decided to split up for the upcoming school year in order to protect their health and educational experiences, a circumstance brought on by the ongoing pandemic.
The Lesters live in the West Ada School District and their 16-year-old daughter Lili wants to attend Mountain View High in-person so she can hang out with friends and participate in school activities and hands-on art classes.
But Lili, one of five Lester children, has a younger sibling who is immunocompromised. Lili can’t go to school and return home in the evenings and risk infecting her family members with COVID-19. So Lili has moved out of the family home and in with her grandparents. Mother Kori Lester will stay home with 13 year-old Brodey and 11 year-old Delaney as they attend West Ada’s online option, the Virtual School House.
“It feels like it’s the lesser of two evils,” Kori said.
Delaney has a chromosomal disorder that doctors have been unable to diagnose. The family refers to her condition as Delaney Syndrome. Because of Delaney’s condition, the Lester family has been under strict coronavirus protocols. Even though everyone in the family who is of age has received the COVID-19 vaccine, Lili wears a mask when she visits home.
Kori said she worries about Delaney getting all of the supportive help at the Virtual School that she was once able to receive at Ustick Elementary, such as occupational and speech therapy during the day. When school was switched to online, Kori and other members of the family were able to help with some movement for Delaney. But a November hip replacement for Delaney put the breaks on that.
Like most of the teenagers in the graduating class of 2023, Lili was unable to finish her freshman year when schools closed in the spring of 2020, due to the spread of COVID-19. They missed out on social activities and interaction.
Lili wants that back as she starts her junior year. “Just being able to socialize more,” she said.
She also believes she’s more successful when attending classes in person.
“It wasn’t the most successful thing for Lili, to be online schooling,” Kori said. “I think there was a big disconnect with virtual learning and it didn’t work for every kid.”
Kori admitted it’s been hard having her daughter out of the house. Delaney is very close with Lili, and Kori said her youngest child is always happy when her sister is around.
“I miss her,” Kori said, swallowing a lump in her throat. “I feel guilty that her life has been affected. I feel guilty that I’ve affected my parents.”
Lili jokes that it’s good for her grandparents to have her around the house. For most of 2020, Kori did the grocery shopping for her parents so they could avoid large crowds.
But the pandemic, exacerbated by Lili leaving this year, has increased Kori’s worry that she’s unable to give all of her children the same amount of attention.
“It’s super hard, as a sibling of someone with special needs, to feel like you’re getting the amount of attention from mom and dad that you need. I know and I feel the pressure,” Kori said.
The family is planning on having Brodey attend Virtual School House, but if his performance shows that he needs an in-person education, he will be moving in with is oldest sister who lives in Nampa or joining Lili at their grandparents’ house.