By Guest Blogger Kelly Nichols, a local educator

Will they go back? Should they go back? Why haven’t they already gone? Is it even safe? What do the latest numbers say? What does going back look like? What will happen? What chart are you consulting? Wait… did the CDC guidelines just change?

Never have feelings felt so loud, strong, and penetrating.

Everyone appears to be taking this personally. Return to School. It could even be the name of a B grade movie. (Ironic that it’s happening around Halloween!) Social media has groups committed to protest if “this” happens. Another group if “that” happens. Nevertheless, we will all (eventually) go back into the school building. School will not be just  like it always has been. Post-Covid or mid-Covid (depending on your perspective) education is reemerging.

Although so many unanswered questions remain, we have a few imperatives from the state:

  1. Require face coverings for all teachers and students K-12
  2. Limit the total number of students, staff and visitors within a school building to the extent necessary to ensure 6 feet distance can be maintained when students/staff will be stationary 
  3. Conduct symptom screening, including temperature checks 
  4. Establish a process and dedicated space for people who are ill to isolate and have transportation plans for ill students
  5. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in the school and transportation vehicles regularly
  6. Require frequent hand washing throughout the school day and provide hand sanitizer at entrances and in every classroom
  7. Discontinue activities that bring together large groups 
  8. Limit nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups 
  9. Discontinue use of self-service food or beverage distribution 

While these non-negotiables may sound frightful, this I know. Teachers are amazing people. They will figure out ways to make school effective and enjoyable. No matter what fears exist, somehow their passion for the students takes over.

Just recently, I watched a veteran teacher share her enthusiasm and creative ideas for reaching kindergarten students with her colleagues. To be honest, her colleagues are tired. They are worn. They are frustrated. But when she began to speak, I saw that spark begin to flicker in their eyes. Slowly but surely, they chimed in and added ideas. I saw her commitment and enthusiasm spread. The light and passion reappeared in this group of educators. This year has been very hard. Their flames need fanning.

Whether school will ever look the same, I am unsure. But I am confident in this: Educators are zealous. Educators work hard, every day, for the students entrusted to them. Despite the enormous obstacles thrown around, teachers somehow find a way to make it work.

Parents and teachers must work together for this year to be successful. No matter what school looks like, regardless of the “plan,” it is essential that our communities are of one accord. Nothing about this will be easy, for anyone. We must demonstrate grace and mercy to each other. If that is the only thing that endures, then we have all learned from our experiences.

I admit I have been surprised by the genuine relationships I have seen teachers and students develop so far this year. I have heard teachers speak of their students like any other year (lovingly sharing funny and sweet stories). I have seen students squeal with delight if they get a glimpse of their teacher at a drive-thru, drop-off or pick-up day. I listened as another teacher spoke so lovingly to a child who was struggling. One teacher has “Lunch Bunch” on Zoom occasionally. Her students choose whether they want to attend. A precious moment occurred when one student took “her” with him to the table and set “her” in a chair so she could eat lunch with his family! 

Perhaps more than ever, when relationships appear the hardest to form, they are the most important. We have all had to look at each other differently. Reach out, stretch ourselves so that we find new ways to connect with each other. Bonds have been formed that are powerful and strong. It is possible we are learning about ourselves and others. Let’s hold on tight to things that have made us grow together. 

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