It is likely that parents – particularly moms – are on the verge of emitting a primordial scream.
It’s been nearly a year. It was Friday, March 13 when kids were sent home at lunchtime from Gettysburg area schools.
School officials, in their wisdom – and after much consideration – decided that the health of their students and staff was more critical than attending the classroom in-person.
Most of us are optimists. We thought this odd germ – COVID-19 or whatever it was – would succumb to our advanced medical technology. All would be back to normal – kids back in school in about a month.
Being a natural pessimist, my one daughter – who shares my wariness – and I, in unison, told the kids, ”Well, that’s it for the school year! You’ll be back in school in the fall.”
OK, even we were too optimistic. Rarely happens!
Granted, remote-learning has its drawbacks. Tech equipment for those who aren’t tech savvy is a trial that racks the nerves. Plus, attempting to teach academics to one’s own offspring requires Mother Teresa’s temperament.
When remote-learning suddenly became essential, teachers – even those who were technologically skilled – were not really ready. Putting together learning packages that could be used remotely required ingenuity and creativity. Figuring out how to teach across the “empty space,” organizing and scheduling classes were all essential. Teachers had to research the availability of – hopefully inexpensive or free – instructional materials. In many instances, they created their own teaching materials. It’s likely they invested their own dollars.
Establishing communications with parents beyond the Zoom-classrooms was required in order to monitor students’ progress and keep parents informed.
I watched the evolution of online schooling and likely only saw a small portion of the teachers’ labors.
My grandkids’ teachers are amazing, they are ardently devoted!
Now, granted, students – at least most students – likely do better in the in-person learning site. Although, I must admit that I have seen grandkids explore subject matter that I would never have imagined. Plus, some of them seem to be gaining some self discipline that will stand them in good stead as they progress through school and life.
Despite all of the drawbacks, there are some advantages to the Zoom method. For example, siblings appear to be more likely to help each other. Sometimes a younger pupil will glean advanced learning by listening in on an older sibling’s class.
Yet, the supervision and time required for remote schooling plays havoc with parents’ schedules. In this day and age most parents work, so one parent frequently stays home to tend the teaching task.
Employees who needed to be home during the height of this pandemic are in danger of losing their jobs.
Even employees who have the “luxury” of working from home will find teaching duties diminish their work productivity.
Unfortunately, the home-teaching task usually falls to the mother, which results in more women’s jobs being jeopardized. We will need to find a solution to those job losses and aim to get those women back into the job market, promptly.
Across our nation, most parents are pleading for teachers’ return to the classroom.
Doubtless, most teachers long to return to in-person teaching, as well. Yet, if the pandemic is still on the loose, who can blame teachers for hesitating to return? This is a matter of weighing life versus learning.
Now, learning is vital. However, shouldn’t we try to ensure that we have taken every precaution available?
By now, we can all recite – probably with little thought – the protocol: Wear masks — properly fitted; keep at least 6-foot distance; wash hands — frequently and thoroughly; clean fixtures frequently; and avoid crowds.
Ah, there’s the rub. What is a school if it’s not a crowd? What is a classroom if it’s not a small crowd in closed, close quarters?
Naturally, we try to restrict the numbers of students and teachers in the limited classroom spaces. To really address the dilemma more money is needed.
Ventilation systems that can circulate and filter the buildings’ air should be installed – obviously not an inexpensive project! In fact, just having the protective equipment and the cleaning materials needed to combat the virus requires more money.
Given that schools, in most of our nation’s school districts, are always in need of more money, most public schools are in the red, before they even start.
We need to make our elected representatives aware that we are willing to allocate more funding in order to re-open schools. Yes, we are talking taxes!
Given that COVID-19 has not disappeared yet, we need to make certain that our frontline workers – medical personnel and pharmacy and grocery store employees are vaccinated.
We are making progress in terms of immunizing medical workers, however not all grocery employees have had access to the vaccine. That needs addressed.
Teachers and school staff should be in the frontline, as well.
If we are going to ask that teachers return to the classroom where not only their own health is in peril, but where they can become a transmitter of the virus to anyone who lives with them including their children and grandparents, then it behooves us to take every precaution..
Granted, we would all probably yell whoopee if we could join a celebration where we tossed our masks into a gigantic bonfire!
Tired? Oh, who among us isn’t bone-dog weary?
However, it appears that we are beginning to rein in this nasty old virus.
A February 14 release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, “More than 50 million doses of vaccine have been administered nationwide. And if 95% of Americans started wearing masks in the next week, 34,000 lives could be saved.”
While that’s a bit of good news, it can give us a false sense of safety. If we think that we have this epidemic under control and if we relax our guard, the virus will revitalize.
Besides, the original COVID-19 virus has evolved.
According to a February 14, report by Yahoo, “Spread of the B.1.1.7 virus variant, first identified in the UK, could complicate any potential decline. At least 981 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been found in 37 states,” the CDC reported last week.
“The team said it had factored in the expected variant spread into its projections for this forecast. In the worst-case scenario, US deaths could reach 645,000 by June 1.”
It does not help that two more variants have emerged. One was first detected in South Africa and the other in Brazil. Although there are few cases, both are now in the United States.
Since our medical community – worldwide – knows little about these two variants, it’s best not to take any unnecessary chances.
As important as it is to return our students to in-person classes, it is more vital to take precautions. Granted, there is a chance that we will be overly cautious.
However, isn’t it better to err on the side of an abundance of caution than to undertake unnecessary – and potentially – devastating risks?
Granted, shutdowns are detrimental. Losing one’s job means loss of income with all of the difficulties lack of financial stability inflict. Yes, isolation due to quarantine restrictions can lead to depression. Nothing about this epidemic is easy.
Still, the alternative is to surrender to the virus. We, as humans, are ingenious. Certainly, we must attack these issues head on.
Haven’t we already lost enough folks to this plague?
Let us lobby to vaccinate teachers – and right away, or as soon as we can get the required shots.
The current administration is hustling to get more vaccines out to be administered.
Thus, more vaccines should be available soon!
Let’s face it, so far, the vaccine is our best answer!
Wear masks; get shots!
Should we require that all teachers and staff be immunized, before a school can open?
Is a compromise possible?
If all but a few teachers have gotten their shots, perhaps the school can begin. Then, as staff members finally obtain their vaccinations, they can return to school as well.
Could that work?