Sunday Reflections: The Kids are Not Okay, No Matter How Much we Want to Pretend that They Are
It took 3 days.
That’s how long it took after our local schools opened up before we got our first notification of positive Covid cases this school year. We get daily notifications, just as we did last year, and the numbers are so much higher. So how is that we have to return to normal for the sake of the kids thing going you ask? The answer seems to be, not well.
We’ve been in school in person, no virtual option and no mask mandate this year because we live in Texas and they are both now illegal. One of Thing 2’s friends have missed 3 out of the first 4 weeks of school because she has Covid. She is just one of many. The efforts to keep kids in school is failing.
Every day I pick my 12 year up from school and she tells me the name of another friend we’ve known since they were 6 who is now sometimes fighting for their lives. One friend has been to the ER twice now because they were having a hard time breathing, but they are stabilized and sent home because there aren’t very many hospital beds available right now.
One of Riley’s friends, now a senior, is fighting their 3rd round of Covid. I’m going to on out on a limb and say that whole natural immunity thing isn’t really working for a lot of people.
While adults are storming local school board meetings and demanding that masks aren’t safe for kids (they are, both of my kids wore one every single day last year) and it’s a violation of their rights (though the super strict dress codes somehow aren’t) and they need kids in school because they fell behind last year, there are a lot of stunning decisions being made that are actually putting kids at risk for a deadly virus and in jeopardy of falling behind as they spend weeks at home fighting off said deadly virus. The disconnect between what they say they want to happen and what is actually happen is pretty profound. I’ve never seen so many adults who claim they claim to care about children arguing against the things we know will actually help in this current scenario.
Last year, our school district had a virtual or in person option. Around 60% of the parents chose the virtual option. Which meant the in person option was safer for kids like mine who needed to go in person because of needed interventions. That meant that from the beginning, class sizes were smaller. Plus, the kids were put in pods and they stayed with those same pods of kids all day, even eating lunch in their classroom together. And they mandated masks. This was a strategy that worked really well, I got very few notifications of new cases last year. My kid never knew another kid who personally got Covid.
This year, everything is different. There is no virtual option (I believe it is legally no longer allowed as part of the political games we are playing with kids lives), the kids go to school as if everything is normal so they rotate classes and are around 100s of different students, and there is no mask mandate (also not legally allowed because we are playing politics with people’s lives). We got our first notice of a positive case within just 3 days and we have received many such notices each day. What’s more, my kid knows so many kids who have been out with Covid. Some of them fighting for their lives.
Our attempts to pretend to Covid is not happening “for the sake of the kids and their education” is having the exact opposite effect. Our kids are getting sick in higher numbers. They are missing so many days of school and falling behind fighting this illness. And honestly, we’ve only been in school a month. This feels unsustainable. It feels reckless and dangerous. It feels like we are trying to live a lie and like all lies, no good can come from it.
This school year is anything other than normal. No matter how much we want it to be over, the truth is we are still in the midst of a deadly viral pandemic. We owe it to our kids to acknowledge the truth and do everything we can to keep them safe and healthy why helping them learn how to navigate the current situation. And the truth is, as the adults in the room, we are failing them at every turn. I hope one day they will forgive us. I hope they survive this long enough so that we can one day ask them to.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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