September 3, 2020
I was privileged to be part of a conversation discussing (I was smart enough to listen, and not talk) the effect (and affect) of returning to school. This came from people located across the country and in rural, town, and city locations. As most school districts and college/universities are open for fall terms, the ongoing conversation on “what to do” has shifted from administrative offices to homes and hallways. The questions seem to center around how to provide the essential services (food, safe housing, human interaction) offered by these institutions while maintaining some form of separation to curtail the rising spread of the virus. This is a conversation that has not been addressed on the national level.
As Higher Education opens it has come with the normal parties and thoughts of invulnerability that were displayed over Spring Break and Memorial Day. Most schools have been conscientious to restrict on campus activities and enforce masks and distancing. This has resulted in students taking their events to off campus private venues. The result has been a rush of new outbreaks that has gone beyond our original cases and daily numbers. It has also resulted in student suspensions, school closures, and shifts to online classes.
Public Education is struggling without clear oversight or direction, and every district across the country has a different solution to the problem. Keeping kids in as small of groups as possible is the goal, so if one gets sick the whole school does not tumble. Some districts have chosen to put children in learning pods, monitored by daycare workers and an online teacher presence. Some are being taught entirely from home, and usually after an outbreak. Others are split between in person days and days at home, with students alternating days and a thorough cleaning in between. For many parents it comes down to what can I afford? Can I be home with my children? Can I not work? Grandparents have traditionally helped resolve this issue, but that is not safe now. Instead we all try to muddle through.
THOUGHTS: This indecision has not only caused problems for working parents, but also for the children. One parent told of his seven-year-old who fell to the floor crying when told her school was not going to open. She had been looking forward to going back since May. There was another side spoken by a grandmother. “This generation will have skills previous ones did not have. At two (my granddaughter) knows to wear a mask and why. What has she learned? To respect others and that her actions affect others. In this (my) corner of the world that has high value.” I hope it has value in yours as well. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.