What Happens Then?

I know everyone has their own feelings about what should happen to the school year, and if you are paying attention you know that my kid wasn’t going back even if he was going back, ya dig? Luckily, our school district decided to start back with 100% virtual classes in a few weeks, but I know there are some parents and teachers still waiting to see what the hell is going to happen. I don’t remember ever being in a position as a parent that is as tough as this one, and there are some tough situations. The idea that we have no idea what really happens when you get large groups of kids in a room together in the days of Coronavirus. The stress it is causing parents who have to go back to work, who are already back at work, who are worried all the time about what will happen to them, let alone their children, but being in a situation where you have to send them somewhere? Man, it’s tough.

I’m lucky. Make no bones about that. I don’t teach. I work from home. My husband has been working from home since March and his company doesn’t see an end to that anytime soon. We have one child. He’s pretty self-sufficient. I’m an introvert. It’s like I was totally prepared in life for a global pandemic of this magnitude. But I know that is not the common case. It’s easy for me to forget that, on my quiet, suburban cul-de-sac, where everyone drives a VW or a Honda. We all have bike racks. We hike for fun on weekends. We take whitewater rafting trips. We go to the beach, then to NYC. Give freely to charity. Take up causes close to our heart because we have the time. We work from home when we feel like we need to. We host backyard parties and book clubs. We are members of the PTA, PTO, and all the Boosters. We have Saturday game nights with friends. We stand languidly in our driveways talking to our neighbors about that “one house” and rising property taxes, and capital improvement projects that might wreck our quiet street. We talk about private schools, lotteries, the inevitable spiral into politics, liberals of course, all of us. The more good for the most people. Jesus, we are so out of touch.

This is me, admitting that I have let my cushy life take me down a peg. I have friends, good friends, best friends, right now who are so stressed that they can’t sleep at night, worried about going back into the classroom. What happens if one of their kids get sick? What happens if a mom gives her fever-ridden 1st grader Tylenol to pass the temperature check (security theater, all of it, Y’all) and then by lunch time has infected others? What happens when the class has to quarantine and class goes virtually anyway, only they aren’t prepared for it this time? What happens when the first teacher dies? How many grief counselors will it take? How much money will his/her family get from the school district when the civil court cases start pouring in? That’s a lot for the schools and teachers to consider and it isn’t even scratching the tip of the iceberg. What happens when a teacher is asymptotic and infects her whole family? What happens when the first kindergartner dies from Covid-19 just from going to her school? What happens then?

What about working parents? They have to work. They have to. The economy is back open and their companies don’t give a shit about them, they better be there at 8:00 am. So where does the single mom send her first grader if school is closed? A daycare? Isn’t that more of the same? Kids crammed into a little space? Only this time he doesn’t know all these new faces. Do they hire a babysitter? Who has the money for that? What about the parents with five kids at home? The home with the abusive father? The kids who don’t have running water? In America?! You want to shout. Yes, in America. What about the kids who have no books at home? No internet? No clean clothes? There are kids that go to school dirty, no shower, unwashed heads and bodies, everyday in this great country of ours. What is happening to them right now? What will happen to them if they can’t get to school? Get two hot meals and a snack each day? What happens then?

I don’t pretend to have any answers. Because I have no answers. I’m sitting back, my mouth shut, listening to the professionals. And the professionals in this case are the scientists, the teachers, the educators, the administrators. The people who know their kids and their communities, and every kid and every community is different. But I do know who I am not listening to. I am not listening to the economists. I am not listening to the politicians. I am not listening to Wall Street, or the gross business owners who are getting millions of dollars in paycheck protection and buying expensive cars, while their employees frighteningly watch the school board meetings being cast out on local public television, waiting patiently for an answer, one they don’t want. One they want. One that suites absolutely no one. And when the answers come, all I can think is what happens then?

M.

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