Like most parents, my wife and I have been discussing what to do about school this fall. We are unsure of where we will be as a state concerning COVID-19. This uncertainty has left us questioning every possible option on the table: Do we opt-in for virtual first grade, or do we roll the dice and send our daughter to class?
After volunteering in classes, I’ve seen how packed they are and the impossible task for teachers to keep children separated. My daughter is everywhere in class, going from friend group to friend group and talking non-stop. The rooms are packed with desks and workstations that give the kids a chance to have healthy interactions. The variety of “specials,” like music, PE and computer class, are reasons people love Livingston County public schools.
My household is lucky. While my children have two working parents, we both can work from home. Working from home with a 6- and 3-year-old is not ideal; one could say frustrating. The inconvenience of educating my child should not be the sole factor in making a decision to keep her out of schools. I do think about my personal responsibility to keep my child home, not just for her health but for everyone else’s as well. Her classroom will have one fewer 6-foot bubble to maintain, one less variable for contact tracing, and one fewer door to bring the virus home.
I spent the good part of a weekend constructing a play-set for our backyard, but I can’t fill it with friends her age to socialize. My wife and I have six degrees between us, but we are neither trained or experienced educators. If we send her to school, it will be for some convenience, but will it be safe? Children only account for 7 percent of national cases (more than 300,000, cdc.gov); however, schools have been closed for basically the entire course of this pandemic and this metric doesn’t mean much as a result. School plans have been made available, but quietly teachers are very concerned and many have opted to retire or quit.
If we send her into the classroom, how normal will things be? Will she be able to fully enjoy her experience, or will she be shocked by the anxieties of the moment? Could my child become sick?
These aren’t questions we should have to answer as parents. Will these questions have to be asked at the start of each new semester for the next year? This is an unacceptable way to exist as a community and as a nation. We deserve better, only when we demand better from ourselves and our leaders.
Howell resident Adam Smiddy, a Brighton High School grad, earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, and a master’s degree from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Motivated by the Sept. 11 attacks, he joined the U.S. Army in 2004, earned his Green Beret, and was deployed around the world, including more than 27 months in Iraq and Afghanistan leading Special Forces hunting for insurgents.
He is currently running as a Democrat for the 47th state House District seat; the district includes the city of Howell and the townships of Cohoctah, Conway, Deerfield, Handy, Hartland, Howell, Iosco, Marion, Oceola, Tyrone, and Unadilla.