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Column

Returning to school

Growing up, the end of the summer was always bittersweet. It meant softball was over, and my family would be returning from a summer vacation in order to prepare for the new school year. While it was always sad to see the summer come to a close, I was usually excited for a new year of school and seeing my friends for another year. I liked school, so I wasn’t like others who dreaded its return. 

I always had a unique perspective to the return to school. I have mentioned on multiple occasions in my column I was raised by teachers. From elementary school through high school, I had a parent in the building with me. My mom was a sixth grade teacher for 25 out of a total of 42 years; and as the school year approached, she would need to spend time in her room getting ready. Dad was a high school special education teacher, so he had prep work too, just on a different scale. Because mom needed lots of hours in her room, my siblings and I would go help her when we were old enough making my return to school even earlier than others. It was fun helping mom prepare bulletin boards and sort books and papers. 

Even after graduation, mom asked for help getting her room ready. She ended her teaching career as a junior high/high school math teacher, so there was much more to do than just prepare for her sixth graders. 

School was fun for me because I learned from an early age an appreciation for what teachers put into each lesson. I hope I can share those same lessons with my son, even though I am not an educator like my parents. 

Like so many things in 2020, I cannot fathom having to prepare for returning to school with the ongoing global pandemic. There are so many opinions floating around what should and shouldn’t be done. All I can hope is that each school district does what is best for the health and safety of its students and staff, and that students someday can make a safe return to school.

I don’t believe there is one single answer to the Return to Learn strategy. Each school district and each student has their own needs, so hopefully they will be allowed to proceed with what will work for them. 

In reading the Newton Community School District’s plan, I believe they have a good strategy for the Return to Learn plan. No one will know what actually works until the school year starts. They also leave part of the decision with the parents to decide what is best for their child. Under the circumstances, I believe they have done the best they could do.

I’m glad Lincoln isn’t school-aged yet because I honestly don’t know what I would do. There are so many important reasons elementary-aged kids need to physically be in the classroom to learn. Not only the lessons from the teachers, but also the social interactions with the other students. However. I can’t deny how nervous I would be sending him to school as the COVID-19 cases are back on the rise. 

Like everything else, we will proceed with caution and find a way that works. I pray for the safety of the teachers. I still have family and friends in the profession. I am glad my parents are retired. They are both in the high-risk population, and it’s good not to have to worry about their exposure. 

This pandemic will come to an end at some point. I have faith in our medical professionals to find a solution to the virus. Until then, we must be safe and be kind to others even if their choices and needs aren’t the same as yours. 

Contact Pam Pratt at pampratt@newtondailynews.com

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