It was almost a year ago when our whole reality changed literally overnight.
Fears about the spread of the COVID virus led to kneejerk reactions among our policymakers. Government agencies shut their doors to the public. Executive orders were issued to private businesses telling them to do the same.
Since the pandemic hit in the spring, it came towards the end of the school year. Seniors who were making plans for once-in-a-lifetime events like prom and graduation were told they simply had to accept their cancellations.
A week-long spring break was extended until it was decided that in-person schooling would not happen for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. Last-minute scrambling was done to put online schooling systems together. Students, teachers, and parents all did their best to adjust.
Summer break offered a reprieve of sorts. But our children remained isolated from contact with each other, during a time when they’re typically free to play outside with their friends. Sports and student athletics remained cancelled or extremely limited, depriving many of them the outlets they need and have grown accustomed to.
The start of the 2020-2021 school year kicked off last fall to more of the same. Parents, many of whom had long since returned to work, found themselves balancing their jobs with the almost full-time instruction of their children. Frustrated teachers did everything they could to duplicate their classroom instructions in online settings. Meanwhile, our students were told to keep waiting for the adults to figure it all out.
But many of our students who were already at risk of falling behind really started slipping through the cracks. Online instruction is challenging enough for most of them, but those with special needs, or who speak English as a second language, faced a growing achievement gap. Children whose families have less access to technology were already at a disadvantage. The circumstances certainly weren’t doing them any favors.
Many parents who were initially understanding about the situation became more upset over time. We’ve now seen parents and students taking to the streets with pickets and protests asking that schools be able to safely re-open.
This has been going on long enough that there is a better understanding of many of the things that were not known about COVID one year ago. School officials, just like other public servants and entrepreneurs around the world, have been working on how to modify buildings to adjust to the situation. Here in Oregon, teachers have even been prioritized ahead of vulnerable seniors for vaccinations, with the expectation that this will expedite the re-opening of our schools.
The 2020-2021 school year is now weeks away from being over. This means that our children have had two school years undermined by these catastrophic global health crisis events.
There have been consequences. Some students have gone so far as to take their own lives. Locally, enrollment in our Beaverton schools is now down by around 1700+ students. Their parents pulled them out of school because their needs are not being met.
In the immediate aftermath of the COVID outbreak, we let fear take the place of facts. But scientific studies have since shown that it is, indeed, safe to fully re-open our schools. It’s past time that we do that. Any families that are concerned about students’ health and safety have a FLEX option in our school district that will enable them to continue doing online instruction.
I’m running for Beaverton School District Board of Directors, Zone 1 partly because I feel that parents’ voices have not been adequately heard on this issue over the last year. Powerful special interest groups have gotten the most say, and their wants have been prioritized over our needs.
As your next school board representative, I intend to make the safe full re-opening of our schools a top priority, for parents, students, and teachers alike.
Please feel free to contact me with any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeanette Schade for Beaverton Schools