A desire for school to return to normal – or as close to normal as possible – is a common theme among parents who spoke at the end of the school year.

If Columbia Public Schools doesn’t return students to the classroom setting, one parent said she would try to find a private school for her children where students are in classrooms.

Thursday was the last day of school for K-12 students statewide. Columbia Public Schools and all Boone County school districts ended classroom instruction in mid-March because of the spreading COVID-19 pandemic.

Coursework moved online for middle school and high school students, with packets of lessons mailed to the homes of elementary students, supplemented with Zoom meetings with teachers and online applications.

Parents told school district officials the instruction was too demanding. District officials paused alternative education for a few days to develop a new plan that, among other things, did away with letter grades.

For next school year, options officials are considering are a traditional return to school in classrooms, continuing with home learning, or some combination.

“I’m definitely glad it’s over,” Jennica Gomez said about the end of the school year. Her children were in first and third grades at Paxton-Keeley Elementary School, where she is on the parent-teacher association.

The district did well with the mailed packets, she said.

Her wish for the upcoming school year?

“I would prefer it to be in class,” Gomez said. “I hope everything goes back to normal.”

If the plan that is developed calls for students to remain home for an extended time, she is making other plans.

“I would probably look into transferring my children into a private school where students are in classrooms,” Gomez said. “I would rather them be completely in school classrooms.”

Though her family hasn’t had too much difficulty, technology hasn’t always cooperated, she said. Some parents have spotty internet connections, depending on where they live and what they can afford.

“The Zoom calls didn’t always work as planned,” she said. “I definitely think technology is the biggest issue.”

The school district bought and distributed wireless hotspots to families without an internet connection.

Megan Weirich, whose children were in first in fourth grades at West Boulevard Elementary School, also wants them to return to classrooms, if possible.

“I would like to see school go back as normal as possible,” Weirich said. “Online education was not executed well. It doesn’t have a place in elementary.”

Karen McHargue had a daughter in first grade and twin sons in third grade at Cedar Ridge Elementary School.

“My kids are going to continue to do school work at home over the summer,” McHargue said.

She is relieved school year has come to an end.

“I’m kind of glad it’s summer,” she said.

She’s trying not to think too much about the upcoming school year, she said.

“I don’t know what to think about next school year,” she said. “There’s no reason to start planning. We don’t know. We’ll see as it gets closer.”

A lot of what the school district has provided for her children was a review of what they had previously been taught in the classroom, she said. The Zoom meetings with teachers were primarily to stay connected with students and not an educational message.

Is home learning sustainable if that’s what the school district decides?

“If it’s a month or two, it’s doable,” McHargue said. “We have jobs. Most of us.”

The school district now is surveying employees about how they want next school year to start. Parents will be surveyed next month.

The school district will continue to provide grab-and-go meals through July 31.