These are indeed challenging times! Over the past month while getting to know the community and diving into the work of leading Montrose County School District, I have had the opportunity to meet with over 100 teachers, engage in critical conversations with the medical and mental health community, read over 800 survey comments from interested teachers, parents and community members, and conduct three separate focus groups for 120 teachers, parents and community members who were randomly selected to participate in person.
Montrose has always included a variety of unique and interesting people. Each with special contributions to the community. This is one of the things I love so much about it. Everyone feels free to be themselves and knows they will be accepted for who they are. What great models for our children! As of late, that acceptance is beginning to unravel just a bit. It is clear that the stress of the Coronavirus is taking its toll. People are scared. People are exhausted. People are anxious. People are stressed. People have vastly different perspectives about the Coronavirus Pandemic.
In gathering input for the MCSD Return to Learn plan, we received many many comments. Two comments really stood out to me as they really represent each end of the spectrum of perspectives. I would like to share them with you below:
“We feel like schools should go back to normal. We will not be sending our kids to public school, not even the remote online learning through the district unless it is completely normal, with no social distancing, no masks, with regular lunch and with regular recesses. We have our youngest starting kindergarten this year and he has been really excited and all he talks about when he turns 5 is he gets to go to school like his sister and brother, but if this year is not going to be a normal one, it won’t be the same. How is it going to work keeping 5 year olds 6ft apart? That just teaches them to be afraid of other kids and people.
The world is a chaotic place and these kids need a normal structure and if the school can’t give it to our kids we cannot go back.”-anonymous
And the other:
“I am growing more and more concerned about the safety of children, teachers, and families in our community if schools return to live instruction. I’d like to see teachers focus their energies on creating digital and other at home content, possibly with weekly meetings with small cohorts of ten preferably outside. The science is clear to those who read it; the number of children and younger adults with infections is increasing, and spread is far worse in enclosed spaces for extended periods of time (like in a classroom). Our community is not taking this pandemic seriously enough, and as a result, schools are compromised. It is unfortunate indeed.”-anonymous
Here’s the thing, I very much respect each of these positions. We are in a time where there is so much media and so many agendas that it is really difficult to sift through it all to determine exactly what we should believe or think about our current situation. I tend to be relying more and more on my values to guide me during this difficult time. As Etienne de Grellet stated, “I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now.” I believe our focus right now should be on trying to understand each other, support each other and build each other up.
The MCSD plan is receiving some final touches and will be published tomorrow, July 31st. As hard as we tried, I know that there will be some people who agree with the plan, and some will not. As many questions as we tried to answer, I know there will be more that come. Families are just about to make very difficult decisions for each of their children. I encourage you to support each decision and show each other empathy and compassion. Let’s not let this issue divide our community, but let us create new ways to care and show support for each other. Remember, more than ever our children are watching us and counting on us to be models for them.
We can’t wait to see our students! Whether in-person or online we are committed to engaging with them in meaningful and fun ways!