I stood in the enclosed foyer at the elementary public school (in Austin Texas) rubbing in the fresh dab of hand sanitizer from the nearby dispenser and waiting for my daughter to arrive with the school nurse. Due to covid, parents were not allowed to pass this point and enter the elementary school for any reason.
The space was large enough for a couple benches, two trophy cases, and a dropoff/pickup table. I noticed that the table was piled with clear plastic boxes packed with books, assignments, and school supplies.
Each box was labeled with a student’s name. I figured this was how the remote students were retrieving and returning their schoolwork for their teacher, and I later learned that they were allowed to do this during a very specific time window once a week to help minimize exposure.
I bet it’s tough on the parents to have to physically manage all those worksheets and assignments. I thought to myself, and then the front door swung open.
The Nurse’s Mask Face Said It All
My daughter rushed to give me a big hug. She appeared totally normal. I looked up at the nurse; his masked face said it all.
He explained, “I know it seems silly to call you here to pick up your daughter for just a sore throat. I’m pretty positive that it’s due to allergies. Everyone in Texas is suffering with them right now. However, protocols have changed since COVID, and we have to stick to them to keep everyone safe.” In the past, kids went to school with runny noses and coughs. Not this year. This year the symptom list to stay home sick includes things like cough, headache, and sore throat.
I could see empathy well up in the nurse’s eyes as he instructed me, “Watch her symptoms over the weekend, and make sure she doesn’t develop a fever. She will need a doctor’s note stating that her symptoms were caused by something other than COVID in order for her to come back to school without quarantining for fourteen days.”
Oh, thank God I just need a doctor’s note. I can’t afford to pay for a rapid COVID test every time my kid sneezes.
I exhaled simultaneously feeling relieved that this inconvenience became a little more bearable and overwhelmed by the reality of my responsibility as a citizen at this moment.
“No one can be too cautious.” I admitted through my mask. “Allergy symptoms look a lot like COVID symptoms.” Truthfully, this invisible virus made this whole process more cumbersome and difficult to work through.
I stood there looking at this situation two ways. One, I’m doing my part to keep the community safe by rearranging my day of meetings to take my kid with allergies home. Two, I’m being inconvenienced by overprotective protocols that can clearly be overruled because my daughter doesn’t appear sick. I chose the first.
“I will make an appointment on Monday and email you as soon as I have spoken to the doctor.” I said. It felt good to have a plan.
I took my daughter’s tiny hand and walked with her back to the car, knowing that no one can escape the inconvenience of living in a global pandemic. In that moment, I chose to rise up and do my part. I’m protecting the whole. I thought. I’m keeping a wonderful thing safe – our school.
This year hasn’t been easy for anyone. Everyone is sacrificing to keep our community safe and healthy. The parents who chose to rearrange their lives to homeschool their kids are working diligently alongside their children with remote learning.
While other parents rearrange their lives on a dime to keep kids home from school when they show any sign of illness, paying for COVID tests and doctor appointments to prove their kid is healthy for in-person learning, and juggling work from home while quarantining a kid who could possibly be positive for COVID.
Extreme Measures Has Lead To No Covid Outbreaks
It may seem like these are extreme measures to live by just to let your child go to school. However, it is this combined effort and strict adherence to the guidelines that has protected our children for the last two months. We have had zero COVID outbreaks in our school.
Since day one of in-person learning, our children return home every school day dramatically impacted by an enriching experience. They share stories, accomplishments, and struggles. Their eyes light up when they proudly show off their work and tell you how they got picked first for kickball at recess.
Their cheeks get rosy when they talk about the cute kid in class. They give the biggest smiles as they retell the story of how the teacher praised them for being a good listener or how someone thought their t-shirt was cool.
The Positive Impact And Development Has Skyrocketed
And then there are the things that our children don’t tell us about, but we know the impact it has on them. It’s the giggles between friends on crazy hair day. The thrill of anticipating the holidays as they walk through the decorated hallways, and the excitement of learning from their favorite character with friends during a video assignment.
It’s the sea of books to explore in the library, and the playground mountain to climb at recess. All of these experiences stimulate mental, emotional, academic, and social growth in our children – big and small. Without question, their development in the last two months has skyrocketed.
The Human Connection- Inspires Ideas-Thoughts-Conversations
I’ve witnessed this. In my mind, the basis for this is the very thing that makes us feel human – connection. Connecting with people, the world, life beyond ourselves – inspires ideas, thoughts, and conversations. It is an exchange of energy. Without it, we live stagnant lives, and some may argue whether you’re really living at all.
So to say our effort to follow the new school protocols is a bit extreme, I’d say yes, but we are also giving our children a safe opportunity to experience life. For our family, in-person learning is absolutely worth it. Without question, our kids are thriving. Life experiences is critical for our kids. The more they learn about life and hardships, the better they will do on their own in college or beyond.
For more information about how to parent during Covid click here.
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