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Wade cautiously but return to school

My Opinion
Wade cautiously but return to school
Wade cautiously but return to school
Ross Schulz
Ross Schulz, Guest Writer

As a high school teacher and parent, I have a vested interest or two in whether we return to school and in what fashion. For the complete health of our students and for the benefit of our families and communities, we need to return to in-person school as normally as possible.

The current plan for Harrison County schools to allow for a virtual option for those who choose to, is a solid, well-thought out plan. As long as the school opens its doors for those who need it, instead of full, indefinite eLearning as was suggested by at least one school board member from a neighboring county, we’ll be doing right in the eyes of the community.

Often during this pandemic, we lose sight of all aspects of health except for the possibility of contracting the virus, a virus that can be quite vicious, as we’ve read in this newspaper with the first-hand account from Marvin Longacre. It’s been great to see Marvin out on the golf course since then.

I won’t downplay the virus or worry about the legitimacy of the facts and figures; there are plenty of avenues for people to read up on that and make up their own minds. Schools should open back up for a number of reasons, the majority of which revolve around, as should be the case, our students.

I had a student tell me once they were only allowed to shower once a week at home. If that’s the case, I’m sure they were missing out on other essentials that the school can, and did, provide for them. Another student who clearly does not have the best home life often emailed back and forth in the spring when school was closed about all of their problems, even having suicidal thoughts. I have heard other accounts of younger children who have spent significant amounts of time at home who have shown signs of being depressed, unable to be with their friends as much as they are used to.

Our society has had a strong push lately for mental health and its importance, but it has unfortunately taken a back seat during the pandemic. I’ve had my own personal issues with near-debilitating anxiety and understand the difficulty it can place on someone and those around them.

Sometimes a child’s only advocate is a teacher, staff member or friend at school.

Certainly life at school for teenagers isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows. We learn a lot about society and how to live in and amongst our peers from our time at school, both good and bad. Failure, rejection and embarrassment are necessary negatives we all have or will experience and, hopefully, learn from.

Our young children in the 4- to 6-year-old range are as vulnerable as any. I’ve sat in many meetings listening to educational leaders speak about the great importance of a child’s learning ability at that age and how it will affect their entire school career and beyond. I feel terrible for those children around the country who will have to have their entire first semester or longer spent with virtual schooling.

eLearning is an excellent tool for a day or two, or short-term stop gap, but nothing can fully replace the in-school experience. It is as much social as it is scholastic.

An area principal I greatly respect talks to his teachers and potential teachers about the importance of building relationships with students. It’s all about relationships. I’m a firm believer in that as well, and it is almost impossible to do so from an eLearning perspective, especially with a class or even just one student you do not know.

No doubt some children would be just fine with indefinite eLearning because of involved parents who can afford to stay home and help them through their work. My children would be lucky, as they happen to have one of the best elementary teachers in the world for a mother (and a pretty good one for a grandmother, too).

But, what about other not-so-lucky children? Those with parents who are not too interested in their child’s well-being or those who certainly are but putting food on the table comes first and so they struggle to be able help throughout the week when it comes to school work.

When I thought about writing on this topic, one person came to mind to get their opinion on the matter. Dane Carter, EL coordinator for South Harrison, has been affected by the virus more so than just about anyone I know in the area. He lost his grandmother to the virus, his father spent time fighting it and a number of members of his church contracted the virus. Carter and his wife work in the education field and he has four children in schools. If anyone’s thoughts about the subject should be taken into account, it should be Carter’s.

“We’ve seen it firsthand,” Carter said. “I”m in no way fearful of going back. Life marches on. We plan to be cautious and follow recommendations. I know many are nervous about going back; however, I will take the same precautions as I take when I’m out in public. I know there are many mixed emotions and policies, but at some point we have to wade out and cautiously move forward.”

President Donald Trump has had plenty of tweets I’m sure he regrets (or at least I hope he does), but there’s one I wish he really had not done and that was his push for schools to open this fall semester. I certainly agree with him, but there’s such a venomous and vocal group of people who fight anything and everything he says, I knew there would be plenty of opposition to schools opening. I’m amazed at the people I’ve seen literally cheer and applaud when schools announce they will not open.

Teachers and community members have filled the statehouse lawns and buildings across the country in years past fighting for public education. Hopefully, we can do our part and provide a free and appropriate public education as it was meant to be.

Speaking of Twitter, oddly enough that’s the place I found the most succinct and sage advice regarding the virus I’ve seen so far (Of course, it was written by a fellow North Harrison graduate). It simply stated, “Wash your hands and turn off the TV.”