Many schools are about to open or have already opened for instruction. And it looks nothing like what we expected.

We expected for things to be better by now.
We expected our children to be “safe” by now.
We expected to go back to normal by now.

But I am more aware that we may never see “normal” again for our school systems. The focus is so heavy on state mandated restrictions and guidelines. These new rules are supposed to protect our children and educators. But how in the world are they supposed to make this work? How are our children supposed to learn in this new environment?

Two Choices

We are now seeing two types of structures offered by our school systems that I don’t think any of us are prepared for – parents or teachers. The first type of structure is an in person instruction that they have termed “hybrid learning”. This where students will go to school a few days a week at alternate times. This will be a nightmare for those of us who have multiple children.

In theory, these ideas of limiting the capacity of schools and facilities makes sense, but how do they pull it off? Schools that provide education to 500-1000 students now need to limit the amount of people in the building, while maintaining a 6 foot distance between each person AT ALL TIMES. Masks will be worn by everyone at all times as well. Sounds like acceptable guidelines on paper, but in practice I think we are kidding ourselves that it will work. And even if it does work to prevent illnesses, will our children actually be learning?

For some parents, the hybrid model is their only option. They have to go back to work to provide for their family. They are in a situation where they have no choice. Put your children in a strange and scary environment or lose your job and not be able to provide for your children. They have no good choice.

bts2Then there is the distance learning option. Students will be taught 100% virtual. Most school districts still are not clear on how this will be implemented. Are the students able to follow lessons virtually in conjunction with the in-person lesson? Or is it one set of teachers teaching virtual students and the others doing the in person lessons?

Some distance learning guidelines have said that the students are expected to be logged in from 8am to 2pm. This doesn’t seem realistic to me for any age child. Aren’t we consistently told to limit our child’s screen time and you now want them logged in for hours during the day? I understand the need to meet education hour requirements but at what cost? And will they actually be absorbing anything that is being taught through a screen? Keeping kids engaged in person was difficult enough. I cannot imagine trying to do it virtually.

And what about families and parents? The ones who work from home full time and now have to teach full time, maybe for multiple children. The older children who are now home alone trying to figure out school online because mom and dad have to work. Most of us failed miserably at crisis learning in the spring. We are told it will be different but I am not sure how.

There are also the resources to consider. My children are fortunate to have internet and computer access but what about those that don’t? Some schools have stepped up and are sending home hot spots and laptops for their students to use that don’t have access. This is a huge undertaking for the school to fund and manage from a technological standpoint. Our country had trouble with public school funding before the pandemic. How much in debt will this leave the public school system now?

No Good Choices

When faced with each option, my only thought is that there is no good choice. And I don’t blame the school systems or teachers at all. They were not given any good choices either. Teachers and administrators are being put between a rock and a hard place. And are being drug through the mud by the media for it. They are doing their best to follow restrictions and guidelines while trying to educate our children. But what kind of education can they provide when their sole focus has been on following the ever changing rules?

In an effort to have some consistency and security remain in the lives of my boys, I have opted for distance learning. I cannot control what the world does but I can control things in my home. I have faith that our teachers have worked hard through the summer to be there for our kids in the fall, which is why I didn’t take the homeschool option. I am fortunate to have this choice, unlike many others who have no good choices.

Ultimately our public education system is going to suffer the most because with no good choices through them, many people are opting to send their kids to smaller private schools or homeschool them. By students leaving the public education program, it will eventually lose funding. Then lose teachers. Then our children lose.

About the Author:

Rachael Cyr is a regular contributor for Hip Lives as well as our HIP Mom Ambassador read more of her story here!