Even as some states reduce restrictions and reopen businesses and as some stores, such as Target, begin announcing their “Back to School” Sales, the number of cases of the Covid-19 Coronavirus continue to soar leaving a wake of uncertainty and anxiety as the wave of infections surge across the country and world, leaving our nation in the firm grip of a pandemic that continues to reign and keep us all in a chokehold as we try to figure out next steps and wonder, “What’s next?”
For many, given the time of year, and the recent memory of 4 months of a school year lost to remote learning, home schooling, distance learning, and the forced implementation of virtual classrooms, the next big step is the reopening of schools, a process that is tantamount, parallel to, and essential for the possibility to fully “reopen” the economy. For us parents, especially those of us with more than one child and those of us who are teachers, educators, and school personnel, to truly be able to get back to work and to be able to truly focus fully on our responsibilities, we must first address perhaps the most important task at hand, which is safely restarting schools and re-establishing our system of childcare and education. However, while many may advise us to ignore, distract from, and avoid the essential question, we know better… and we know we must face it head on so that we can move forward into our reimagined normality and free ourselves from our anxiety –
The question, – “Back to School: When? Where? Why?- How?!”
It is not a question of “whether” we will return to school, but rather “when?” and this is a hotly debated question and heated topic with many factors influencing the resolution, particularly the factor of when it can be accomplished safely for our children, our families, our students, our teachers, our faculty members and school personnel- when we can do it in a way that doesn’t spread the virus and extend the pandemic- that’s, “When”! Of course, one consideration is what such a school would look like keeping in mind the many different types of school that would need to transform their physical plants as well as most likely their philosophies, and the fact that not all schools will have the same limitations due to their varied nature: Nursery and Pre-schools; Charter, Public, Private, and Parochial Schools; and Community Schools, all variations and iterations of learning institutions of all levels: elementary, middle, high schools; Vocational and Trade Schools; Liberal Arts and Specialized Schools- all types of schools- will need to be reimagined for their constituencies and our communities.
Only schools that were previously operating using a remote learning, home schooling, distance learning, and virtual classroom model will need to make slight adjustments- all others, the rest, the majority will have to reinvent themselves, the way that we have had to reinvent our society and the way that we socialize- also, schools will have to adapt and come up with a new way to accomplish all their goals including providing education, childcare, community support, and socialization. Just as it sounds, reopening schools is a Herculean task, but one that must be accomplished for us to move forward.
Yet we still don’t know where these schools will open as any and all physical locations will have to be updated along with previously existing procedures, policies, and protocols so as to protect everyone’s health and well-being as per Department of Health (DOH) and CDC guidelines. Therefore, when schools do finally reopen, it is most likely that the majority will reopen first online due to the fact that it is the easiest way, and due to the fact that the internet is of course the safest place to avoid transmission. Despite the many plans floating around for reopening it is very unlikely, inconceivable, that it will happen any time soon and certainly not all at once. There is also the matter of whether or not, and when, people will feel comfortable enough to return to school given the fact that so many people have risk factors and underlying conditions and there are too many variables to control. There is also the question up in the air about who will decide that school will reopen.
Back to School In NYC
In New York City, for example, the many press conferences that have been held around the subject have suggested multiple individuals being responsible for this decision including the President, governors, mayors, leaders and representatives of the school system. Nonetheless, there will ultimately be only one, or maximum two individuals, making this decision in every household across America and that person is- us parents when we decide whether or not, or how, to allow our children to participate in the various models of schooling we will be offered; after all, we must consider the safety and wellbeing of our children. Therefore, at the end of the day, now is the time that we must start thinking about and setting up our criteria for how we will reintroduce our children into the school environment and what that environment must look like and provide for us to feel comfortable with releasing them into it. If we have any doubts and are unable to decide on our own, then it is up to us to go seek the guidance of trusted professionals, such as therapists, and then ultimately make the decision ourselves taking into account their input. WE DECIDE!
In the meantime, what can we do to get ready and keep calm while we move ever closer to reopening schools?
Remember that ultimately we are in control and will decide when our children will start physically attending school on location at a physical place.
Start coming up with a criteria for making the decision based on your particular circumstances… consider:
- i) Level of comfort with the level of safety of proposed school plan
- ii) Purpose of schooling, ie child care vs education vs community support…etc
- iii) Your schedule vs Your Partner or Support’s Schedule vs Your Child or Children’s Schedule
- iv) Depending on the age, your Child or Children’s preference
- v) Family/ Friend / Institutional Support Available and your level of comfort with them
Apply the Criteria and Be Ready to Adapt and be Flexible based on changing guidelines, guidance, and resources as we are still learning and responding to the virus.
Seek support from a professional like a therapist to help you through the many thoughts and feelings that you will face as well as to help provide you with validation as you go through the process
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