Over the weekend, I asked one of my family members if there was anything specific they thought their kid would need/want for their upcoming birthday. “It is back to school season,” I got as an answer. For a brief moment, I pictured a variety of backpacks, binders, and smart clothing. Then, I realized we were in the year 2020 – the coronavirus year. “Are they going back to school?” I asked, unsure of the recent news on education. “Heck, yea!” I heard in reply. While it was somewhat feasible for kids to stay at home in March, things have changed since. Then, the parents got to stay home, too, whether furloughed or working from home. Now, workplaces have reopened, pulling many of those people back into the office.
Several weeks ago, I wrote an article on Parenting in Times of a Pandemic. Even back then, I was aware of the strain school closure put on families. Now, with the new school year approaching, we are reminded of those issues even more.
In the state I live in, each county came up with their own plan, best suited for their region and population. Some districts conducted surveys to see how parents would like to handle the new school year. As you can imagine, the results were mixed. Most schools will give parents the option to either send their kids back to school full-time, enroll them in virtual learning full-time, or to mix and match.
We have been talking about privilege quite a bit in recent weeks. There is a new privileged person in town, namely one that has the option to keep the child at home. During my most recent work conference, I was informed that employees have been slowly returning to the office and will continue to do so. While I was not surprised to hear that, it was a bit of a change in tune since the last few calls, which highlighted the “new normal” of supporting those who loved working remotely. When asked what they would do with their kids this coming school year, the president of the company said they would enroll their kids in virtual learning since one of their family members has a complicated health history. “I am glad you have the choice,” I thought to myself, remembering those that do not. You cannot enroll your child in online studies if you are required to go in to work and do not earn enough to pay someone to watch your kid. I truly empathize with those who do not think they have an option.
As I write this, I think of all the people that I know that believe COVID-19 is a hoax. Do I personally know someone who was symptomatic and tested positive? Yes. Have I had it? I never got tested, so I do not know. While I do not condone freaking out about the virus, I also follow the mask/6ft guidelines when in public. Has the world changed? Definitely. But maybe some changes are positive? (See: Traveling in Times of a Pandemic)
Some people are afraid of heights, but I am not. Do I tell them that their fear is stupid? No. Of course, I might try to help them break through their fright, but there is only so much I can do. Most of us fear something others might not. Why should the fear of catching COVID-19 be any less real? (Review my post on the Psychology of Fear).
Having established that COVID-19 is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future and that some people are petrified of the virus, let us circle back to the new school year. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos emphasizes the need for kids to go back to school in the fall while some question the decision for reopening the schools. They are worried about children getting infected and spreading the virus to the elderly and those with more complicated medical histories. They worry about hot spots and community outbreaks. Betsy DeVos and her supporters argue for the necessity of education among the young ones.
The truth is that the education our kids got during this pandemic (remote learning) does not compare to the one they would have gotten at a school if everything was normal. Many children got to basically skip school for a couple of months. While I believe in giving the young ones the time to play, I also think that not having school can have a detrimental effect on them for years to come.
As bloggers, we know how hard it is to get back to writing after a hiatus. Imagine how difficult it will be for kids to go back to learning.
DeVos calls on schools to reopen but leaves specific planning down to individual schools, which I think is a good idea. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this conundrum. We cannot keep kids from fighting and bullying. How will we ensure that they are 6ft apart at all times? The classrooms are not big enough to accommodate that. Yes, there are challenges that many people face with the pandemic. However, if you have been in the corporate world for longer than a day, you know that a challenge can also be an opportunity. We have the opportunity to come up with a “new normal.”
Another reason why some are up in arms about the “back to school” directive being pushed by DeVos is …money. Madam Secretary said that schools which will not reopen might not receive funding. Instead, money might be redirected to support families in those school districts. Frankly, I do not see how this can be polarizing. If a school is not open and educating kids, then why should it receive money from the government?
If parents are returning to work, what will kids do if the schools remain closed? That scenario is simply not feasible for most families in the US.
- Is COVID-19 forcing us to rethink societal norms and family dynamics? Are we going to go back to having one parent work while the other stays at home to watch/teach the kid(s)?
- How are schools dealing with reopening where you live?
- Are you going to send your child(ren) back to school in the fall?
- If you were in charge, how would you have the schools reopen? If at all.
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