What Are We Going to Do About This Disaster of a School Year?

As difficult as the spring was, with having our kids home with us all day as we ourselves tried to keep working, it did have a finite feel about it. At the most, it could only go on as long as the rest of the school year, which in my case was just shy of three months. And while they did have online assignments and class video meetings a few times a week, we all knew it wasn’t anything near what they normally learn in a day, a week, a month. We weren’t really trying to teach them anything new; we were trying to keep them from slipping backwards, from losing what they’d already gained. We were trying to survive.

And now we’re in the Summer Limbo of Hell, bracing for what fall might bring. Fall feels different. Fall is a new school year, not the wrapping up of an old one. Fall is new teachers and new expectations. It’s more advanced curriculum. Fall isn’t trying to adjust to life in a pandemic; fall is six months since our kids have been in the same room with their friends.

They need to go to school, and yet it’s not safe.

They don’t suffer as much from the virus, and yet their teachers and cafeteria workers and maintenance staff and counselors do. Their elderly relatives do. Their parents do.

They need to learn, they need to socialize, they need to get out of the damn house. And yet, this pandemic isn’t going anywhere.

I was going to write a post that maybe it’s time to consider homeschooling, as some parents are now doing. But even having the choice is a privilege that most parents don’t have. Many of us could get by in the spring when their workload was reduced, along with everyone’s expectations. We didn’t like it, but we could power through. But how can we homeschool all day when we’re still working from home or returning to the office or working an essential job? We can’t, is the answer.

But how else do we prepare for what’s ahead? How do we get our kids ready for what the school year will bring when it’s all still so unclear? Lots of schools still haven’t revealed what in-person classes, if they have them, will look like. New York City recently announced that its public schools won’t fully reopen; instead, kids will go to school 1-3 days per week.

On one hand, it makes sense. It significantly reduces density; kids can be more spread out and less likely to contract and spread the disease. On the other hand, how the hell does that work? Are they learning remotely the other days? And if so, who is teaching them or facilitating that? What about childcare? We could send them to daycare, but then they might as well be at school. We could send them to their grandparents’ house, but we really don’t want to do that.

We could lobby the administration and the school board, but what do we ask for? Where is the good solution in all of this? If sports and extracurriculars start back up, do we let them join? Do we let them huff and puff their way through band practice or play lacrosse with a mask on and a barely physically distanced crowd on the sidelines?

I want to prepare; I want to help you prepare. I want to shower you with back-to-school parenting hacks, but how do you hack such a clusterfuck of a school year? I don’t want to tell you about anymore free online educational resources! We are all tired of free online educational resources!

I’ll tell you what I’ve done so far, but it’s very basic; I’ve bought my nine-year-old another cloth mask. He’ll probably have to wear them every day he’s in school, at least at certain points, so I’ve started stockpiling. Other than that, I’m waiting. I’m talking to him about what school might look like. I’m hoping August is clearer than July, but other than that, I’m not sure what to hope for.

Tell us in the comments: What are you doing to prepare for what is likely to be a disaster of a school year? Homeschooling? Hiring someone else to homeschool? Praying for an all-virtual return? Praying for an all in-person return? Going to do whatever your school tells you to do because you don’t have another option?

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