My kindergartener bounded out of her classroom, pink floral backpack bouncing on her slim shoulders as she skipped my way. A minute later, her third-grade brother rounded the corner of the long hall with a friend, talking animatedly with his hands. Their older sister was headed straight to basketball practice—I hope we don’t have to do more ladders today, she’d groaned hours before over a hurried breakfast. I chatted with a group of teachers stationed near the door, wished them a good weekend, and herded my kids through the line of buses to the car.
It was Friday, the end of a typically busy early spring school week.
It may have been the last day of school as we knew it ever.
Of course, we all know what happened next—school closures, distance learning plans, quarantine—but, naively, many of us assumed it was temporary.
Now we’re staring down a summer of uncertainty, swallowing a nagging heartburn that feels like change and tastes like fear.
And for the first time, I’m starting to wonder if the kids will be alright.
This week, the CDC shared school reopening “guiding principles” for districts to consider adopting when students eventually return to in-person learning. They include:
- Cloth face masks for students over age 2, teachers and staff
- Daily temperature screenings
- Students stay with the same teacher and classmates all day
- Desks 6-feet apart, all facing the same direction
- Partitions and sneeze guards at desks
- Tape on the floor so staff and children remain at least 6 feet apart
- One-way routes in hallways
- Regular announcements over the intercom on reducing the spread of COVID-19
- Limit nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities
- Virtual activities instead of field trips, assemblies, and performances
- Limit sharing supplies, electronic devices, books, or other learning aids
- Avoid using water fountains
- Stagger arrival and drop-off times
- Sit apart on school buses in every other row
- Keep playgrounds closed
- Don’t use lunchrooms
- Eat alone at desks
As a mother, my heart is breaking for my kids.
I want my kids to be healthy.
I want my kids to be aware.
I want my kids to be compassionate and considerate of others.
But I also want my kids to have a childhood.
One that includes pep rallies and group projects and music class and noisy lunchrooms.
One that includes hugs from teachers, high-fives from coaches, giggling in the hallways with best friends.
One that includes afternoon recess and library books and borrowing a red crayon.
If we scare our kids into seeing other people only as threats to their health and safety, do we lose a central piece of what it is to be human?
Over the last few months, our kids have displayed resiliency, creativity, and maturity far beyond many of their years—and they’re to be commended for it. But let’s not forget they are still children, and what they see and hear from us today has immense power.
Life as we knew it has changed, I don’t think anyone is disputing that.
But life as our kids will know it should still be rich and full—or they may not be alright much longer.