So, I just got the decision of what school looks like for my kids as they come back to school in the fall, and it’s really missing something. The district that they are in has told parents that kids can either return as normal with social distancing practices in the fall or go all virtual. The worst part of it though is that we as parents have to make that decision by July 10. There is no middle ground. There is no hybrid approach. With where we are with this virus, how can we really make an informed decision?
I have so many things to consider here. To start, I am working with two different age groups that have two different needs. I have a son who will be going into second grade, but
I also have two daughters in middle school. I am not going to lie and say virtual learning for my son was easy. He is one of those little boys who typically bounces off every wall in a room, and his teachers have always been able to get more out of him academically than my wife and I have when trying to do things at home. He needs school. He needs that structured environment, but what will that even look like? Is requiring 2nd graders to wear a mask, sit in the same seat all day long, and not do anything collaboratively even effective? If he is just going to just sit at his desk all day and do worksheets, I think it may be more effective to keep him here, but it really is an impossible choice.
For my middle school girls, I think in-person instruction is important, but I think they can still get effective instruction in a digital format. My big question is what value does going to school have for them? It’s all going to be about what the instruction actually looks like. Are they going to be able to move around and collaborate? Are they going to be doing the exact same things they can get online? Will the social distancing guidelines implemented be so miserable that they will actually be happier at home? Without an idea of what instruction looks like, how can I possibly answer these questions?
I think the other thing that we have to weigh fully here is the health and safety of teachers. Do you know one of the first things that happened in the metro Atlanta area to make school closures a real possibility? It was a teacher collapsing because of COVID complications in a South Fulton school, and guess what? If it happens again, I think we are right back where we started with remote instruction. Will kids who were in person, be able to transition quickly? I have my doubts. I think this also is going to factor in the quality of the online instruction because of this. Naturally, my first thought is that all the best tech-savvy teachers would be the ones who pursue the online route. I think it’s more likely that it’s the ones where health is an issue whether they are ready or not.
On top of all this, how in the heck are we supposed to make this decision with the trends that are happening with the virus as a whole in the Southeast? It’s climbing past levels that got us here in the first place, and unless people start really adhering to health professionals’ guidelines, it’s likely to climb even further. A perfect example: masks. The governor of Georgia and Mayor of Atlanta came out today and asked people to wear masks. Do you know how many I really see when I go to the grocery store? It’s less than 50%. How am I supposed to make an all or nothing decision with that? It’s likely the virus is just going to be a worse problem without major intervention, but do we really think that is coming?
With all those factors, it brings me back to a hybrid. I want my kids to go back to school. I need them to go back to school, but why can’t they go part-time? My wife actually works for a church with a school attached, and I think that school has the perfect model. Split each school into 2 halves, Team A and Team B. You could do it by grade level or some other factor. Have team A come Monday and Tuesday, deep clean Wednesday, and then have team B come Thursday and Friday. The rest of the time students move to virtual instruction. It gives kids both and it also gives janitorial staff the time to make sure cleaning is actually done right. It also puts me as a parent in a position I am comfortable with. Cobb County Schools, I hope you consider it!