COVID, Kids, School

School Update

I hinted at this in my post the other day, but I should probably address this fully. 

So, school. Just another one of the 1,000,000 hot topics of the year that gives people another thing to fight and disagree about. This one really gets me riled up personally, so I’m going to try to keep this brief (spoiler: I don’t).

Quick backstory of our local situation:

Earlier this summer, on July 20, our public school district announced they would be returning virtually this fall “at least through the first quarter” (which here runs from Sept. 8- November 2). This was voted on by the School Board, applied to all public schools in the district and from my understanding, was based on the inability to safely open all schools while preventing the spread of COVID (we have a good sized district with something like 16 total schools and a huge high school).

My boys attend a smaller, private, Catholic school in town. All summer, our school’s principal had been in touch with us, reporting that they were working diligently (and in constant communication with public health deparments) to put together a full, comprehensive plan to allow kids to return to school in person that would meet or exceed all local health guidelines regarding COVID. 

A few weeks ago we received the full 5 page “Opening Plan”, which I thought was great. To name just a few, it included things like:

  •  breaking the grade levels up into smaller classes or “hives”, with <15 per group (per guidelines). This means the kids would only be with these same 15 kids everyday. They also spent hours putting these groups together, ensuring neighbors/friends who already see each other anyway or carpool were together to minimize additional interactions. 
  • social distancing in all settings
  • modified arrival/ dismissal schedules to ensure social distancing is possible at all times
  • masks required at all times
  • changes to lunch (only with their “hive”), no water fountains, birthday treats, etc.
  • no shared supplies
  • professional cleaning/disinfecting service daily each evening
  • option for virtual school for anyone not wanting in person

The plan meets or exceeds the health department’s requirements. These are the same requirements that the local YMCA/Gym/Rec Department centers for daycare/daycamps that are all open and have been open (with no issues or major outbreaks) have to meet. I personally felt very comfortable and quite impressed with the detail involved in the opening plan and was thankful to the staff for their very hard work. 

Well. Wouldn’t you know it that all of a sudden at 5 pm on Friday evening, August 21 (mere days before some small local private schools were planning to open, after working tirelessly to make accommodations all summer), our county issued a last minute “emergency order” stating that ALL schools in our county (including private schools) are suddenly REQUIRED to open virtually only for grades 3-12. 

Deep breath. 

I’m not going to go crazy getting into this, since I really am trying to keep this blog generally positive and free from “debate-y” topics. Personally, I do not agree with this and I think it is completely unfair that a school cannot open IF it meets all of the widely accepted safety standards.

I am never a fan of “blanket statements” or one size fits all rules and policies in general. Comparing our small, private schools reopening (as a local news channel did) to schools reopening in Georgia, with masses of unmasked high school kids in the hallway and clearly a terrible, unsafe reopening plan, is like comparing apples to….zebras. 

 If a school can meet the same safety requirements being used in all other settings, then there cannot be any increased risk that warrants shutting them down (and bringing along the huge slew of negative outcomes for families/kids that come with closing schools!) and they should be allowed to open. If the school cannot meet the safety requirements (due to lack of staff, building design, whatever), then it shouldn’t be allowed to open. 

 I also have a BIG issue with day camps/ day cares being allowed to open (oftentimes inside school buildings) with the exact same numbers/ plan as our private school, while the schools cannot. It just doesn’t make sense.

 Not to mention- my kids’ education feels pretty darn essential to me. 5th and 6th grade are huge fundamental building block years for the rest of middle and high school. My list of concerns goes on and on.

So basically, I can pay to send my kids to a “virtual learning YMCA day camp school” inside a public school building with 15 kids isolated per group, but I can’t send my kids to “school school” inside the school with 15 kids isolated per group. (scratching head, mind boggled)

Anyway, gonna wrap up. This makes my blood boil for many, many reasons and I’m getting a headache. Several lawsuits against the county have been filed this week in an effort to overturn this ban so I guess we’ll see what happens. 

People are MAD. 

I’m all for stopping the spread of COVID- I really, truly am. I get the severity of it and I want to do the right, safe thing whenever possible. But I also really, truly believe that if a school can open safely (meeting all recommended safety guidelines), it should absolutely be allowed to open. School is SO IMPORTANT! 
I love this reminder (which I think we all need right now) that we can always choose our attitude about a situation. I may hope for change or a different outcome, but I can also still (try!!) to choose a positive attitude along the way, no matter what happens. 


Daily Gratitude:
Unrelated to all of the above…I am grateful for a BEAUTIFUL morning outside today. Cooler temperatures (high of only 75 after several days in the 90s!), sunshine…it’s a glorious day. 


5 thoughts on “School Update

  1. sorry to hear the sudden last minute change. Remember, control what you can and let everything else go.
    We also hoped for hybrid mode few weeks ago but now we've started 100% virtual this week and I must say it's better than I thought. yes, I don't like that they are in front of a screen from 8-2, but they designed it in a format that really imitates school setting. it's definitely not ideal but I feel that given the situation, they're doing the best they can. Sofia's teacher even has to wake up midnight to teach for 6 hours, that's commitment.
    I'm at peace at where we are now mainly for my own mental health, and hope things will go back to "normal" soon but otherwise we are fine just how it is.

  2. Ugh. What a mess. I feel like the uncertainty of it all is almost worse than the last minute change itself. I mean, if you had known for sure in June that you’d be online in the fall you could have gotten used to it and made your peace with it (and not wasted your school’s time!) But now what are you supposed to do! Prepare for online? And then switch back again maybe at the very last minute if the lawsuits are successful? At any rate, as you and your other commenter way, the Serenity Prayer seems in order in such a tumultuous situation.

    Ireland has been very committed to opening schools since early in the summer. In fact the pubs are still not open – the only pubs in Europe to remain closed- to give the schools a fighting chance of success. There are a lot of Irish drinking jokes to be made there I’m sure but I do admire the commitment to education. My oldest girl starts kindergarten and is so excited to start. We have had several letters and emails about all the changes to school (one way system in the school for walking around, kids in pods of 5-6 students, no mingling among grade levels, no parents on school grounds, separate toys and gym equipment for each grade level, all lunch boxes and pencil cases must be plastic, the list goes on). I am skeptical to be honest whether it will all actually work, given the mixed experiences in other schools elsewhere. But we are very ready to be back in school in this household, and I would feel that way even more so if my kids were at an academically important age. (School is important to us this year despite it being only kindergarten because our girl is in an immersion school where we don’t speak the language she will be taught in. I have no clue how we would attempt to teach her at home. We do have an online learning app program that the kids and we will be using if we have to transition online and the classes will be kind of hybrid now so that we will be ready to go with the app if the school has to close. But I have no clue how we would navigate through the second language issues.)

    Here’s hoping that the kids show their amazing never ending ability to adapt and find a way to thrive this year despite the obstacles! x

  3. I'm so glad to hear that school is going well so far for Sofia. I'm sure there are ways to make it work, or at least work as well as possible. I think some of it depends on the child's personality, too. Some kids/ families are better suited for it probably than others. I'm just dreading the thought of having to oversee it all while trying to work again. And, it just felt too chaotic in the spring- constantly trying to see what they're supposed to be doing, making sure it's all getting done, organizing their assignment lists etc.. I'm hoping that this fall it will be more like "regular school" with a full schedule, etc.

  4. I'm so glad L is getting to go back. Especially for those special K years, there's just no substitution for in person schooling! It sounds like schools all over Europe have been opening and overall from what I've read, it looks like it has been going pretty well. So fingers crossed it will for you guys, too. We'll get through it one way or another…not that we have much choice, anyway! 🙂

  5. Ugh this is so tough. Things are different here in Minnesota. My friend's daughter goes to a small private Catholic school and they are able to stick to their plan. In general, it seems like our approach to school decisions is very local and based on case levels in your area which I think is a good approach since our state has very different levels of population and lots of rural areas. It seems like the private schools are not subject to the reopening guidelines and can determine if they can safely reopen. I would be annoyed to pay private school tuition and then have my kids home with me… I don't see how you are possibly getting your money's worth in that situation. I hope there can be some kind of reversal of that order so your school can reopen.

    I'm also extremely cautious about Covid but I think some schools can safely go back, and if they can do so safely and have enough teachers willing to teach, they should be able to reopen. It's different in a public school setting where class sizes tend to be much larger. So I completely understand why our public schools are going virtual in our school district.

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