‘We need to look out for each other and be a united community’


Published: 9/15/2020 2:44:31 PM

This is a pandemic and nothing is normal. The one thing we know for sure is what this virus teaches us and anything else is a guess.

We know that the virus spreads easily and asymptomatic people make it more threatening. We know that no one is immune from getting and spreading this virus, including children. We know on Aug. 10, the Boston Herald wrote in Massachusetts a total of 7,597 children age 0-19 were infected with coronavirus, and 122 have been hospitalized, according to Department of Public Health.

We know that the regular flu season is starting and that means from September to June in the schools. We know we cannot compare school reopening to schools in other countries because their numbers were down for a period of time to even consider reopening.

We know we have teachers who have compromised immune systems who were not limited from working before the pandemic. Now they must consider their physical health as well as financial problems related to taking medical leave, resigning or retiring early for themselves or compromised people in their families.

We’re asking teachers to go into this situation but how many of us are willing to do this? How many school committee meetings have been in person? How many meetings anywhere are in person these days? How many of us plan how to go anywhere? How much more do we plan when we have children with us? It is exhausting and produces anxieties.

We all want children to go back to school. It is normal. But this is a pandemic and nothing is normal.

Remote learning began in March with no notice. Teachers, students and families were thrown into an unexpected and unknown situation. Was it perfect? No. Was there allowance for a learning curve? No. Was it normal ? No. This is a pandemic, nothing is normal.

We know that remote learning occurs nationwide where many people receive online degrees. Many of us and our children are online all the time for jobs, entertainment, school research etc. It is already part of our life. Teachers can get beyond the learning curve for remote. And while remote learning is not an ideal way to educate kids, it is the only model that assures that we will all be safe.

We need to look out for each other and be a united community. That is the only thing that matters right now.

We are up against an incredible challenge as a global community. We must remain focused on taking care of one another, our children, our families, and our neighbors.

We are more resilient than we know and so are our children. We will get through this. But going back in person presents potential costs of health and life that we cannot undo. Teachers are there to help children and families even if done remotely. We know hybrid learning represents a middle ground between remote and in person learning. However, some infectious disease doctors raise concerns about introducing these alternating schedules because they increase transitions and contacts and possibilities of spreading the virus.

Starting school remotely is not only safe but it gives us a chance to consider the next step, the safety measures that are needed and when to take that next step. Again, we only know what we know about the virus and what it teaches us.

Annette Pfannebecker, a resident of South Deerfield, is a parent, educator, grandparent and community member.

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