At this point in the summer, most families know how their school district is handling the 2020-2021 school year, at least to start. Some schools are going 100% virtual/remote learning, some are going back to in-person learning, some have adopted a hybrid or 50% capacity plan. For the district that I live in, the school buildings will operate with a 50% student capacity dividing the student body into two basic groups (Group A attends in-person Mondays and Tuesdays, Group B attends in-person Thursdays and Fridays, with remote learning the other three days). Our district also has the option to go 100% remote learning (Group C), but if you do not have internet access during the day then your child can become the small Group D that will attend in-person learning four days a week separate from the other groups, supposedly. If all goes well, then at the end of the first semester, we will revisit our learning options, hopefully going back to traditional learning. It all seems complicated and dangling by a thread, as well as a lesson-planning nightmare for teachers, especially high school teachers.
With that being said, I implore teachers and school staff members to be kind to the parents and guardians in your district. We know that you are overwhelmed and are acting in what you think is in the best interest of your district, but communication with the parents and patience with their uncertainty would be nice. In the district that I live in, little communication has come out to the parents. We are operating on rumors from what someone saw on Facebook or Twitter (apparently the only way our Superintendent likes to communicate) instead of receiving letters in the mail or phone calls from staff. At this point, I have only received one letter from the school listing information that I had already uncovered from Facebook posts and tweets. Some parents have reported that they could call and get information on their child’s group and schedule already, which I had to find out. My thought is that if I could just call or email the office and get the information, but then hear that the office staff is overwhelmed with phone calls and emails, why not mail out schedules and group information to parents. This would alleviate much of the load on the office staff as well as allow parents to start planning their weeks. It seems common sense to me, but I know that doesn’t always exist in the operation of schools (I worked for nine years in a high school Principal’s office, and I can verify that common sense has little to do with anything there).
Additionally, those of us who have sent in questions are more than likely not getting answers. In the beginning, I had heard that some neighboring school districts were surveying groups of parents to see what options would work for them. My district did not do that, stating that they could not make everyone happy, so they were just going to execute whatever plan they came up with. That’s nice. Since finding out that my son will be in the Monday/Tuesday group, I have asked about holidays. Many holidays in the first part of the school year fall on a Monday or Tuesday. Does Group A get less in-person learning time than Group B just because of their draw? Or is the holiday a remote learning day (which is my argument for not needing snow days anymore) or does Group A come in on the Wednesday to make up for the holiday? I have not even received acknowledgment of my question. I then asked what happens if there is a positive COVID diagnosis in Group A? The only answer that I received was that our county department of health will decide. Well, what is the county’s plan? No answer to that. I also asked what happens if my son is not able to get online at the specific time window that his teacher tells him to be logged in, perhaps due to connection issues or technical difficulties or a sibling using the only device we have. They said that he will be marked absent for the day. I find that unfair and made my opinion known. No response to my remark about not being able to get online. Figures.
So now that I have acknowledged that the reopening plans for schools are frustrating and a little anxiety-inducing, let’s all take a big breath in … and then let it out. As a parent, I have accepted the notion that this will not be perfect. In fact, I am sure that it will be riddled with errors and overlooked issues. In times like this, I think we need to deal with what our districts have dealt us and help each other out. Reach out to your friends with school-aged children and your neighbors and offer help if you can. You may not know that they are really struggling or stressing about childcare, or internet, or whatever. Sometimes a simple message just to touch base will put some parents at ease, especially when a school district is not.
To all the parents out there that read my blog (not that there are many), I am here to help if I can. Send me your questions and let’s figure it out together. You know the old saying, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” Let’s help each other out by dealing with the hand we’ve been given and work with the resources that are available to us. We are in this together!