We cannot imagine what it is like to be a parent planning for the back-to-school window. Each day brings new developments and challenges. And we’ve not yet even begun fall classes.
Parents are confused, rightly so.
Besides COVID-related safety, parents are working to arrange child care and work their employment needs around getting Johnny and Jane to classes.
Two of Galveston’s largest school districts, Clear Creek and Texas City, voted Monday night to push back their originally scheduled back-to-school dates. All the county’s districts still are planning how, when and if they will be able to allow students and employees to resume in-person instruction.
This fall semester will be anything but business as usual.
Typically, these weeks would be filled with purchasing new backpacks, classroom supplies and clothing. But if remote learning is going to be the rule for the beginning of the semester — as many districts are opting for — the school supply list is much different.
On the other side of the equation are school administrators and teachers trying to accomplish their essential charge of educating youth successfully. With a nation’s educational system based on public schooling, COVID-19 is creating a massive challenge for educators.
We feel for both as everyone searches for a solution to serve both needs. Our nation depends greatly on the classroom educational process. Our unscheduled departure because of COVID-19 accelerates our need to resolve how remote learning will function. Until a vaccine arrives, having 30 students in a classroom is a memory of bygone days.
Debates continue to roll across the nation about the safety of opening schools. While some say doing so is safe since younger people are less likely to suffer the more dangerous effects of COVID-19, the main fear is for the teachers and other school staff employees. Bus drivers, food service and janitorial services are populated with adults in higher risk zones. And don’t school children return to homes with adults of all ages? Isn’t the spread rate the real enemy — hospitalization cases exceeding capacity?
But classroom learning provides an essential social setting our children require to develop into adults. Healthy socialization doesn’t occur looking at a computer screen all day. Add in the added impact person-to-person teaching can provide, and we should not be ready to toss out the baby with the bathwater.
There are no easy decisions here. And without state-guided direction, school districts and parents are going to be left to make what they believe is the best decision for students and the public education system.
Regardless of local decisions, let’s hope our actions promote the right balance between health and educational needs. If we don’t, we may find ourselves in this same place again shortly.
• Leonard Woolsey