Staying positive about school reopening

Our son was all smiles when he returned home from his junior high orientation just now. His new school has a special Panther “handshake” — more of a fancy wave, actually, since no one can touch. 

The cute little combination of fist bumps and claw hands reminded me that teachers are always going to find ways to keep school fun for their students, even during a global pandemic.

This is going to be a strange school year, no matter what happens, but I’m choosing to be optimistic. 

Students are going to be outdoors for almost all of their Phys. Ed. classes, even in light rain and snow. Their other classes will be outside sometimes, too, and they’ve even set up cool outdoor classrooms. This is something other countries have done for years, and the fresh air will be good for the kids!

While it will be sad not to have band or choir for the foreseeable future, at least students will still get to have music classes — they’ll just look a bit different.

Nope, they won’t eat in the cafeteria this year, but that doesn’t really matter. We grew up eating lunch at our desks, with those little milk cartons delivered straight to the classroom. It was great! You never had to worry about where you’d sit, either.

I didn’t even need to buy new backpacks this year, since last year’s packs have been sitting in the closet since the middle of March and still felt “new.” I’ll take the little wins where I can get them.

School routines will be different, but our kids are much more comfortable wearing masks and social distancing now. They’re washing their hands far more often, and squirting sanitizer onto their palms has become a normal part of going just about everywhere.

If our kids are sniffly or coughing, they’ll stay home. If they sniffle or cough at school, we’ll get a call to pick them up. Yes, there are going to be more sick days this year and it’s going to be a pain sometimes for working parents, but we’ll deal with it — it’s certainly better than having them at home for five and a half months straight again.

I’m choosing to be optimistic because my kids will mirror what I model, and I want them going back to school feeling excited to see their friends and teachers. I want them counting down the days and planning what they’re going to wear. I want them to have that feeling of normalcy again.

I’m tired of reading nothing but panicked articles and social media posts that make it sound like schools are ticking time bombs — practically flowing COVID-19 germs through the ventilation systems on purpose. I just want to explode with “Who knows?!” While I wouldn’t normally describe myself as an optimist, the crushing weight of this pandemic has shown me the importance of being hopeful, of not obsessing over the worst-case scenario.

We are not in the U.S., so you can’t compare us to what’s happening there. We are not getting thousands of new cases daily. We’re a province that’s been doing exceptionally well so far — requiring a two-week self-isolation for anyone coming in from outside the Atlantic Bubble, and making face masks mandatory in public spaces. 

Even after a summer of people moving freely between four provinces, vacationing, camping, dining, shopping and socializing, we are doing OK right now. (*Knocks on wood*) We are being cautious. We are (for the most part) following the rules, and we’ve been rewarded with low case numbers and entire stretches of having no cases at all.

Yes, of course, cases could rise again and we may have to move to a combination of in-person learning and virtual learning — but that’s better than nothing. And if things get really bad and we’re back to virtual learning only, at least we got the chance to try in-person learning again.

As we creep closer to the first day of school in Nova Scotia, the real focus won’t be on “reading, writing and ’rithmetic” — it will be on how we can model empathy, flexibility and gratitude for our kids.

We’re sending our kids back to school, staying positive for their sake and being especially patient with the teachers and administrators working so hard to make it all happen.

We’re sending our kids back to school, hoping for the best but quietly preparing for our kitchen table to turn back into a subpar classroom.

We’re sending our kids back to school, knowing this school year will be very different for everyone — but grateful they have the chance to go at all.

C/O/ The Cape Breton Post

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