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  • Writer's pictureRoberta Whitney Hughes

Back to School – RONA Style

In case you don’t have teenagers, RONA is slang for COVID-19.

As the mom of a Senior (Class of 2021), this week my son will head back to school. I consider my son lucky. He is attending a small christian high school and has the opportunity to be in school every day with his peers. Aside from some new safety protocols, back to school looks pretty similar to years past. However, not everyone is so lucky.

As many college students, high schoolers, middle schoolers and grade schoolers are heading back to school in some fashion, I have heard different scenarios from different parents. Depending on the school, school district, and age of the children, each scenario brings its own set of stressful circumstances.

Back to School Scenarios for RONA

  • Children will be grouped into “cohorts.” Cohort A will attend school on Monday and Wednesday, do on-line learning on Tuesday and Thursday, and attend virtual class with their peers on Friday. Cohort B will attend school on Tuesday and Thursday, do on-line learning on Monday and Wednesday, and attend virtual class with their peers on Friday.

  • Parents may choose whether their children are 100% online or 100% in school. The hope is that 50% of families will choose online schooling. This will allow the school to accommodate students and adhere to COVID-19 safety regulations.

  • Children are in school 100% of the time with modifications to the schedule to allow for safety guidelines. Remote learning is available for families who are not comfortable sending their child to school and for anyone who may have symptoms of any kind (COVID, flu, etc).

  • College freshmen are required to live on campus and will have a mixture of on-line learning and in-classroom learning depending on their class schedules. This means an incoming freshman could live on campus and only have one class they attend in the classroom and take all of their other classes on-line.

  • Only college freshmen can live on campus. All other students must find off-campus housing. Depending on their class schedule, they may have anywhere from 100% on-line learning to 100% in-class learning.

If these scenarios feel confusing, it gets worse. Depending on the school, school district and age of the children, parents must navigate new protocols.

RONA Protocols for Back to School

  • School lunch will not be offered. Children must bring lunch from home. Children must eat in their classroom with their cohort. This will require families to have the means and ability to provide a healthy lunch for their child on the days they attend school.

  • School lunches are offered in pre-packaged containers so children can grab and go outside to eat.

  • School drop off and pick up times are assigned to the parents. Buses will not be provided for transportation. If a parent has a grade schooler and a middle schooler, they might have to drop off their grade school at 8:00 a.m. and pick them up at 2:30 p.m. Then they might have to drop off their middle schooler at 7:30 a.m. and pick them up at 3:30 p.m. This will require a parent to carve four hours out of their day to get their children to and from school.

  • On-line learning is independent. This requires parents to “assist” their children in making sure that they are understanding assignments, working on assignments, staying focused on their schoolwork, and answering questions.

What About the Families that Don’t Have the Means?

Many of the back to school scenarios feel overwhelming. Some of the moms I have talked with are finding ways to minimize their stress. I have heard a few moms say they are hiring teachers to supplement on-line learning. They are creating small learning groups with other families. The hired teacher will guide their children through on-line learning and fulfill the role of teacher. This will allow parents to work from home with less stress. Other moms have asked relatives or friends to transport their children to and from school. This allows them to be at work and know that their children are safely arriving to school and returning home.

While I love the creativity in these solutions, they leave me wondering. What about the families that don’t have the means? How will they manage the new protocols? For many, it will be a struggle to balance work, pay bills, feed their children and support their learning, too.

This week, I am taking a pause to consider ways to help. I invite you to join me.

How to Help Families with Back to School

  • You have the means to hire a teacher. Is there a family without the means that you could invite into your group?

  • Your refrigerator and pantry are generously stocked. Is there is a family you could offer to pack healthy lunches for each day of the week?

  • Driving your kids to and from school each day does not interfere with your work. Maybe there is a family who needs help with transportation?

  • You are a retired teacher and love to teach. Is there a family that needs support with on-line learning?

  • You love math, or reading, or science, or social studies, or writing. Can you tutor a child over ZOOM or FaceTime and help them with their learning and development?

  • Cooking is your specialty and you are an empty nester. Maybe a family in your neighborhood is juggling working from home and on-line learning with their children. Could you offer to make dinner for them once or twice a week?

None of us know how long RONA will run among us. As children head back to school, small acts of support will help them learn, grow, and develop into educated, independent human beings. It’s time to gather together. If nothing else, we can support each other and partner together to educate all of our children.

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