Things happen in life, good things and bad things. Those of you who are regular readers of my little blog will recognize that I wrote and posted a piece on an addition to my family. And will also recognize that I have since removed that post. Things…did not work out. I was too quick to post the news – the seed had not yet been firmly established it seems. We are all saddened, none more so than my fierce and valiant daughter who will soldier on in the face of this disappointment, this lose. She will square her shoulders, stiffen her back, and will try again once the time is right. And in between, she will grieve. But she will not be discouraged or disheartened. And she will not give up.
After all is said and done, is that not one of the lessons of life? That you will get kicked in the gut and it will hurt and you will double over in pain. And you will rise up again and move forward anyway. I always remember some of the simplest sayings and “bad things happen to good people” is right up near the top of my list. It is a reality of life. And right along side of it is “life is not fair”. Because it is not fair. It is not fair that crackheads laden with heroin and the seeds of countless unknown “donors” who made their deposit for a fee so she could buy more smack, spit out babies like watermelon seeds at an Kansas cookout, while sweet and caring women who would be amazing mothers struggle their lives to have even one. Not fair. But that’s just how it is. You pick up and you move on and try again.
Speaking of making the best of things…the school year has begun here in RI and each town is doing it differently. The teachers pushed back hard on any reopening plans and I understand why; trying to get little kids to wear their masks throughout an entire day, rest room issues, no recess, no playground, not personal effects at all in the classroom, student pods, and a thousand other issues that would completely dilute the intent of the school learning experience. However, our governor declared schools “safe” to open and placed extraordinary pressure on the towns and cities to open with in-school attendance. Most yielded to that pressure and have opened with students in the classroom. My daughter, who is the school psychologist for a couple of schools in one of our larger cities, told me that by day two, the kids had fully adjusted to the new school routine and rules and were all doing fine. The teachers are still struggling but are fighting their way through it.
My grandkids town, however, did not yield to the pressure and opened with distance learning. I actually got to experience the new schooling routine firsthand today, as their mom had to work and we went up to watch the kids and help the day’s schooling. And it was amazing. We have a kindergartener, a 3rd grader, and a 6th grader, each with their own laptop and class schedule. The teachers did an amazing job making a bookbag for each student filled with class-specific folders meticulously organized with daily assignments place in order along with examples and guidelines, crayons, pencils, and even a glue stick! The computer connection was smooth and seamless and the kids could all see each other, wave to each other, and talk to the teacher one on one. I did not get to see much of the 6th grader’s “classroom” time because…well, because he’s a 6th grader and we all know how they can be! His day is the longest, beginning at 8AM and not ending until around 2PM. There are breaks and lunchtime, but it is a grind, especially given that he never really gets to move much. In school he’d be walking from classroom to classroom, running on the playground, etc. But at home? He just sits alone in his bedroom with the monitor.
So my take on all this, with a mere snapshot of information, is that the teachers have done a remarkable job to try and ensure that every kid has a chance to continue to learn with at least a modicum of normalcy. And the kids have jumped right in with both feet and are enjoying the learning. But it is just not the same. It can never replace the social interaction of the classroom. They need to be in a room with other kids and a teacher, with school rules, school lunch, school play, and school spirit. They need the structure and discipline of a school. Computers will never replace that.
Is going back into a school the right decision? As I say to my wife almost every day: there is no right answer. The first kid that tests positive for COVID will, at a minimum, shut down that whole class and place them all into a two-week quarantine. And with the next ten days, I expect we’ll start to see that. So far they’ve announced 19 cases from schools and it has only been a couple of days. But the reality is, in my town of 26,000 people, we have tested 25% of our population (~6,500 people) and have only had a total of 297 positive tests. We had 236 positive tests back in the first week of June and here in the second week of September have only grown by 61 positive tests – in something like 15 weeks only 61 cases. So will it “explode” now that they are back in school? I don’t know. Extrapolating off the existing data suggests not, but the parameters are not the same. This is all kids from all different families all crammed inside small rooms all day. That does suggest a possibility for rapid growth in cases. So we’ll wait; wait until this time next week and into the following. We’ll wait and we’ll pray that they all get through this safely, without harm. School is tough enough – it shouldn’t come with the risk of becoming the next Typhoid Mary to your family. There will almost definitely be a child somewhere who will be exposed to, and will catch, this virus at school, and will then bring it home to the family, resulting in severe or even catastrophic consequences in that family. And at the point, at that moment, was it really worth the risk?
There is no right answer. Tough times dear reader…..tough times. We all do the best we can and must continue to do so until this is in our collective rearview mirror. Stay well dear reader!