Back to School. Ish. Apt. 11D Newsletter, September 4, 2020
For the first time in 27 weeks, both my kids are in school. Sort of.
We drove Jonah down to Rutgers on Sunday. His school is entirely virtual. As much as this makes everyone pretty sad, it was probably the right call. His school has 30,000 undergraduates, an overcrowded bus system, a ton of commuters, a diverse population with differing norms regarding masks and personal safety. I can’t imagine how Rutgers could safely open prior to a vaccine. Other colleges with a smaller, non-commuting student body seems to be doing fine, but big state colleges can’t do that.
Although his university’s dorms are closed, Jonah’s privately operated dorm is open. And he happily went back there. He was randomly grouped with four other guys, but so far, only one has shown up. So, he is a spanking new dorm suite by himself. Seems lonely to me, but he’s 21 and really needed some space from his old parents and the opportunity to see buddies. We were a little worried that he was getting too shy and too dependent on us. Developmentally, he needed independence. So off he went.
And after a lot of local drama, Ian’s school opened yesterday using a hybrid model – half in-person, half virtual. Compared to other local school districts, his school did a good job. The virtual part will happen via a video camera, not YouTube videos and worksheets. He’ll have nearly a full day of learning. This isn’t happening in other towns, including the town where I live. (Because my son has special needs, he is bussed to a neighboring public school with fewer kids.)
With the growing erosion of democratic norms, participating in politics through normal channels is more important than ever. Yes, we must demand better behavior from our leaders, but we also must work in our own backyard to keep democracy strong. That’s why I’m going to volunteer to work the polls on Election Day. I’ve also decided to play a stronger role in local government.
On Monday, after 2-½ hours of school board members squabbling with each other, they opened the floor to public comments. Via phone, I used my allotted four minutes to talk about the initial studies that show massive detrimental impact on kids from this pandemic, both academically and emotionally, and demanded that they come up with plans to address these deficits.
The other day, I asked Ian what were the five things that he missed most about life prior to the pandemic. I said that I missed the smell of movie theater popcorn, live music, museums, hugs with my mom, and indoor get-togethers. Ian quickly responded with his list of things that he missed: “everything, everything, everything, everything, everything.”
Our kids need everything, but right now their worlds are deserted college campuses, masks and disinfectant, isolation, boredom, and endless hours of video games. Sure, we’re doing our best to help them out, but even the most joyful homeschooling parent cannot give them everything.
When this is all over — and it will be over at some point, just not this year — adults have to make this up to them with bold, creative programs. They’ll need reparations. I hope we don’t sweep this mess under the rug.