We feel like we are winners of a very bad fair prize: The Pandemic of 2020.  We might still be a little bitter the fair didn’t happen, but we will forgive them this year…but we want deep fried goods and people watching next year!  What else does 2020 have in store for us?  We are still waiting for pigs to fly, but at this point, we aren’t ruling that out just yet!  We ended the 2019-2020 school year in a pandemic, and we are starting off the 2020-2021 school year still in a pandemic (we suppose it doesn’t just go away overnight).  When everything shut down in March of 2020, parents and schools had to figure out how to educate and teach their students virtually (at least here in New York).  Many parents that were working outside the home, were now working from home which was a challenge in itself (our bandwidth is slower than molasses in -20 degree weather), why not just keep our kids home and attempt to teach them also (again our internet connection is suffering LOL)!  Welcome to the educational saga that is better known as, “2020, The Year the World Fell Apart”, or perhaps we should say it fell together?

We had the chance to talk with a few parents who have children in the Baldwinsville School District, as well as a few parents from other states to get a better perspective on how they feel about the 2020-2021 school year.  It’s safe to say we are ALL in the same boat.  It’s easy to get anxious over something until you see the bigger picture and realize everyone is right there with you!  All of our questions are asked free of judgement and criticism because we too are knee deep in the chaos! One of the questions we first asked was, “How did you go about deciding whether to send your kids to school or not?”

Sabrina Tetrault said, “We went back and forth on it, but push comes to shove and our kid needs socialization. She was going crazy at home being around just us since March, and socialization is a huge part of elementary school. In addition, our kids need to have their immune systems exposed to build them.  Lastly, she is not a great digital learner, she needs the presence of a teacher to remain engaged. I’ve been working from home so helping her and working just about killed me.”  Sabrina, we feel you on this level of exhaustion.

While Katrina Grady stated, “I chose 100% remote for a few reasons. So much was still up in the air about COVID and I wasn't sure I wanted to put him in an unknown situation for it.  I'm somewhat fortunate because I work from home most days, so it gives me the ability to have him home without worrying about school cancellations out of nowhere, but also opens up some space for the families who need their kids to attend school.”  Truly thoughtful of you Katrina!

Clearly it wasn’t an easy decision for parents this year.  We must not forget that much of our school staff are also parents themselves. We talked with a few parents from an online mom group that has parents from all over the United States,

“I’m a single mom and a teacher (school size of 1800 students), so we didn’t have a choice, I had to go back so that just meant my son had to as well.  I feel really good about the COVID protocols my district put into place and I see my colleagues really taking the cleaning/masks/distancing really seriously” said Kalee Carey from Texas.

Decisions aside, the vibe of this school year is not the same as previous years.  Heck, all of 2020 is just not the same or anywhere near normal feeling (we’re going to need more sage for this one)! School aside, life as we know it has truly changed all around from home life, to how/where we work, how we grocery shop, and how we are able to dine out. We proposed the question to our panel of parents, “How do you and the kids feel about school this year?”

“Needles to say, my son is not adjusting well. A kindergarten classroom does not look like a typical kindergarten classroom and coming from a very well-known preschool in Baldwinsville that is full of colors and activities, he has not yet come to the point where he is completely comfortable. He also has to wear a mask all day which let’s face it, is not easy for adult, so imagine a five-year-old trying to do it” Jamie Dudley-Hiller said.

Undoubtedly, being a student in a new school for the first time ever is a big change. Add a splash of new pandemic procedures, a dollop of heavy mask breathing, and a pinch of bathing in hand sanitizer…well you get the idea…not a school lunch we are willing to devour! But what about those kids returning to school that have been there before?

“She was really nervous about it, me, not so much. I listened to all the webinars that they held, and the schools were doing everything possible to make school safe and still fun.  She came home today (the first day of school) and said today was awesome and she loved her teacher!  It’s how I know I made the right decision” said Sabrina Tetrault.

Many other parents feel that same sort of confidence and are learning to adapt with the change of the world around them.

Shelby Lynn explained, “While I don’t love the idea of having to wear a mask, I don’t think it’s a terrible thing for kids to learn how to adapt.  This entire pandemic has thrown the world for a loop of course, and it’s important to teach our children about learning to adapt on a whim just as we had to.”

Probably our favorite question we asked regardless of where everyone is located was, “If you had to go back to all online learning, is it something that you don’t mind doing, and how do you and the kids feel about it?”

Katrina Grady said, “The online learning is rough, for me, in terms of the scheduling. His day still essentially goes from 9-3:15 and includes several zoom calls scattered throughout the day. I understand the need for that format, but it makes my work schedule very broken up and I'm much less productive with the interruptions. We're still trying to figure out how to best work around each other. The fact that this schedule is fluid and can change significantly at any time does have an impact on my workflow and my client interactions. This was my only hang-up with doing the 100% remote.  However, when we were given the staggered calendar for the hybrid, I realized that it didn't give me much more stability, maybe even less so, so I was glad we had gone the remote route.”

Dakota Bryan stated, “If it goes to all online, then I will pull her from the district and homeschool.  I refuse to have an outside voice dictate our schedules and have my kid on an iPad all day when I know that I am more than qualified to take on the job.”

Kalee Carey explained, “Online teaching 80 kids plus helping my son navigate online school is a scenario I am hoping does not play out.  From the teacher side, it’s impossible to engage online the same way we do in person.  However, I feel like we have gotten a little more training and support in the case that a shutdown happens.”

But perhaps Jenny Schreffler says it best with, “I will say I’m already losing my mind with homeschool, but I think we’re all losing it!” (LOL, we concur!)

We truly feel that while this school year may look and feel different than the others, we are all in this together and all working for the same common goal.  We will leave you with a final, yet important comment from Jamie Dudley-Hiller,

“I think right now every parent, teacher, and staff member at all of the schools in our community are really trying to do their best. We’re all fighting the same fight. We’re all trying to keep it normal, but let’s face it it’s not normal. Being a parent isn’t easy to begin with, and then adding this… it was like someone just flipped your world upside down, tore your schedules into little tiny pieces, and laughed in your face. But I’m not giving up, my husband is not giving up, and we are certainly never going to give up on our children.”

Now that’s something we can all agree upon!