As we head towards the Thanksgiving Break next week I continually remind people how grateful I am for the opportunity to have students in school, if even only for a few days per week. Thinking back to August, we really didn’t know what the year would bring. We all digested the different models that each District in the area presented based on stringent guidelines that were in front of them. We liked parts of some models and wondered about parts of others. Most were similar, but none were the same. Given the guidelines it was almost like asking for the impossible.
With so many moving parts and considerations it sometimes felt like nobody would be able to pull it off. As parents, staff and/or community members all of us either overtly or covertly expressed our satisfaction or displeasure with the different plans. It’s all anyone could talk about. What was good about it? What was bad about it? Is it going to work? Is it safe? The debate raged on in every community leading up to Labor Day. Then we had our first day of school. Then we had a second day and a third and a fourth. The days turned to weeks and the weeks to months. August seems like such a long time ago now, especially as the flurries start to fly in CNY. We are now three months into the school year. It isn’t perfect, but it is school during a pandemic. Our students light up the room with their learning and curiosity just as they did pre-pandemic. Students, staff and families have stepped up to help make our schools as safe as anywhere in the community. In fact, schools are actually doing what the guidelines suggest and we are not taking unnecessary risks. Schools remain a consistent, safe place even as the world around us appears to be losing the battle to the spread of the virus.
This is the part where I get preachy and I’m ok with any criticism that follows. I want my own kids and your kids to continue to go to school in-person. As a spike in cases across the country and our region surges, we have to make a decision about how the rest of the school year plays out. Believe it or not, this isn’t going to be a decision by a Board of Education, a Superintendent or even the Governor that determines whether schools stay open or not. Our personal behavior ultimately is going to determine whether or not schools stay open. Or whether or not there are winter sports. Or school concerts. Or musicals. Or formals and semi-formals. If we are not willing to make sacrifices in our behavior, if we are not all following the guidelines, then we know that over the next few months the virus is going to spread faster and further than it has since this whole thing started.
This isn’t about hoping we stay open or wanting activities and events for our kids. We actually control what happens. We need to keep our small bubble of contacts to a minimum. Every social interaction outside of our immediate family or household without a mask and social distancing is a risk for spreading the virus. We need to refrain from unnecessary travel. We need to stay home if we have any symptoms. If we think we may have been exposed to someone positive we need to stay home from school and work. It actually is that simple.
Right now the only thing that is really working is schools. The virus is not being spread in our halls and classrooms. The virus is being spread in the community. What our students and families do outside of school is what leads to students and staff in schools having to quarantine, and it’s the amount of quarantining that ultimately shuts down a building. If the community in general all followed the guidelines as stringently as we are in schools, right now we would not be seeing a surge in the number of cases.
This is up to us. We all have a responsibility to do the right thing. We all have the power to help stop the spread and bring our schools and community fully back to what we want them to be. Let’s decide to do this together. Let’s make a choice to keep our schools open by making smart choices and making short term sacrifices each and every day. It isn't easy, but it's the right thing to do. The alternative is people doing whatever they want to do in the name of freedom. If we choose that road we know the outcome won't be good and we'll only have ourselves to blame.
Let’s continue to take care of one another, stay healthy, be smart and mask up!