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Challenge: Back to School 2021

To the Parent Who is Feeling Overwhelmed

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Our kids have been in school for just eight and a half days, but it feels a lot longer than that.

Do you feel the same?

Last year, our four children learned online. Our lives moved at a slower pace and while there were challenges and obstacles we faced, it was still an overwhelmingly positive experience. Yet, we knew in our hearts it was time for them to return to school. They needed it both socially and for their quality of education.

At the time when we made the decision to have them return this year, we were promised our school district would adhere to the CDC recommended guidelines. With how well they handled the pandemic last year, we assumed this year would be much the same.

How wrong we were.

Last week, our school board held a meeting that sadly made national headlines. Throughout the meeting, board members were heckled as angry parents yelled from the crowd. And as the meeting adjourned and people began to exit the building, board members and medical professionals were insulted and threatened.

This is the environment we are living in. This is what we are modeling for our children. We preach the importance of kindness, and then we go off the rails and threaten people who don’t think like us.

Somehow, a medical issue has become a political issue and people are hot. Boiling hot. And it has to stop.

During that board meeting, our school board voted to put a mandatory mask mandate in place for elementary school-aged students due to the alarming rise in cases in just the few days since the schools had opened. Sadly, a few days later, our governor passed a bill saying that anyone can opt out of these mask mandates.

Not only has he said mask mandates cannot be enforced if parents complete an opt-out letter, he has also stated online learning will not count this year. At the same time, attendance rules are once again being enforced and after 18 days of missing school, a letter will be sent to the state saying your child is chronically absent. Simultaneously, parents are being told if your child exhibits any sign of illness, you need to keep him or her home.

How does this work?

I feel like our hands are tied and I’m not sure what the endgame is here. Do we really care about keeping the kids in school if we aren’t doing these basic things that will enforce their safety and allow them to learn from home should they be quarantined, or have a spike in numbers that warrants a class, or even a school, being shut down?

In our district, they have even gone so far as to say that if a class, or school, is shut down, the days will count as inclement weather days. We have 10 of those built into our calendar. 10.

I understand we are all coming at this from our own unique perspectives and view points. I know we have different life experiences and beliefs that shape how we feel, and respond, to this. I get that.

In our family, three out of our four children have dealt with asthma and other lung related issues. A common cold was rarely ever just a cold when they were younger, and countless nights were spent in the emergency room seeking treatment so they could catch their breath.

If you have ever heard your child struggle to breathe - it is awful and is something that sticks with you.

This new variant is more contagious and is affecting children at a greater level, and like many whose children have struggled with health issues, we are not willing to mess around with a respiratory virus.

Because that is what this is. It’s a health issue. Not a political issue. And we have to get out of ourselves and start thinking more about the good of those around us.

What is the endgame here? What is it going to take to make people realize these choices are affecting the health and safety of our children and our families? How many people will need to get sick? How many hospitals need to become full? How many people will need to be hospitalized? And sadly, how many more need to die?

We have the tools to do something, but so many won’t. And while I respect that we are all different, I really wish we would at least take this a bit more seriously for our children.

Because some people’s lives may depend on it.


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