Make up YOUR OWN mind about how your child(ren) will be educated this year

Parents, the calendar has turned to August; and that means if you have a choice as to how your child(ren) will be educated this year, it’s time for YOU to make it.

Of course, health conditions around the country have taken this decision out of millions of parents’ hands. In areas where coronavirus cases remain stubbornly high, responsible superintendents have chosen to not open their school buildings this month; they know whether the doors open at all between now and June will be determined by the pandemic.

The most important word in that last paragraph: responsible. If you don’t recognize why, then you need to critically examine what’s happening around the country. Let’s leave it at that.

Scan the local newspaper of any major metropolitan area and you’ll encounter two ever-present themes about schools: Parents (and most certainly teachers) are worried, and school district leaders know they’re going to anger people no matter the decision they make.

For the record, I think all schools should begin the year online, and move off that plan only when health conditions — inside and outside school buildings — are positive. Is this the best educational environment for children. Hard no. Does a closed school building disrupt millions of parents and their professional lives? Absolutely. Smart government policies would alleviate those fears, but those aren’t forthcoming. Sadly, the most vulnerable pockets of society will continue to face the worst of coronavirus and its consequences, no matter what unfolds over the next few months.

Leaders of some school districts are waiting as long as they possibly can before determining how to begin the educational year. My school district is one of them. As I watched the video feed of my school district’s board meeting a few nights ago, I vigorously nodded my head whenever anyone involved with education acknowledged that no decision made over the past decade comes close in importance than the one about opening elementary and secondary school buildings this month.

My district’s leaders say they’ll hold off until perhaps Aug. 17, two weeks before the school year is scheduled to begin, before deciding on three options.

Option 1 is the traditional school doors are open plan, and students will attend five days per week. (In the interest of brevity, I’m omitting the detailed and excellent health and safety plan my district‘s leaders have in place should students be in the buildings.)

Option 2 is a hybrid of on-ground and online teaching. Students would be split into groups and would be in the buildings two days a week (Monday and Tuesday for one group, and Thursday and Friday for the other) with remote instruction happening on the other three days.

Option 3 would resemble what we saw beginning around the middle of March: remote instruction only.

The ever-present “as health conditions allow” phrase reminded everyone participating in, or watching, the meeting that our district might have to toggle between two or three of these options before June 2021.

For parents who don’t want to deal with the uncertainty of these options or who have children with medical conditions that make being in a school building precarious, there is the Cyber Academy, which allows students to begin the year with remote instruction. These students may remain in the academy no matter what chaos coronavirus brings, and they may opt out at the end of each quarter.

For my wife and me, the choice was simple: hello Cyber Academy! We made it in consultation with multiple people. We made it after exploring what education our son would receive. And, yes, we made it knowing there are sacrifices we’ll have to make because our son will be home almost certainly for the entirety of the school year.

That’s the message to parents: Arm yourself with information and make the choice that’s right for you and your family. Playing follow the leader won’t serve your child(ren) or you well. Hoping that someone else makes the decision for you suggests you don’t feel confident to make one. Taking to social media and simply liking what someone else is doing is a complete absence of leadership.

If you truly don’t believe your child should be inside a school building this year, then select the cyber school option your district has in place (if it has one). If there isn’t one, then possess the evidence necessary to argue for a closed school building.

End of story.

And, yes, I’ll repeat that far too many parents in this country can’t afford, literally and figuratively, to adjust their working lives to ensure their kids have the proper supervision in order to stay home. If you’re not one of those parents, you’re fortunate in ways you might not even know.

Likewise, if you are firm in your belief that your child(ren) ought to be inside a school building, then gather the evidence necessary to argue for an open building.

End of story.

We’re the parents, and we’re the ones who MUST examine the evidence about schools being open, recognize whatever health conditions exist within our child(ren), weigh how what we decide might affect our jobs, and relay our decision to our kid(s).

Our kids count on us always to keep them safe, fed, warm and healthy. In good times and bad, we have to do what’s right for them and for our families.

Yes, this might the most important decision we’ll make as parents and perhaps for a very long time.

YOU make it. Your kids are counting on you.

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