Sometimes maintaining the status quo is the best we can hope for.
And 2020 is one of those times.
Parents, teachers and school administrators have spent most of the past several months scrambling to provide our children a little stability in a year when the only constant seems to be upheaval. Those months have been marked with instability both at home and in school.
Schools shuttered. Jobs suspended or eliminated. Safety nets overwhelmed.
It’s a time when disparities in our community, educational and economic, have continued to widen.
Families that struggled prior to the pandemic have been thrown further into jeopardy while those that began March 2020 on relatively solid footing have found ways to manage the disruption with relative ease.
There is a dramatic difference between inconvenience and jeopardy, and families in our community have been marked by one or the other throughout the pandemic.
That’s why we were slightly relieved, but still concerned when the k-12 testing company NWEA released fall testing data. Scores millions of students logged in math and reading show an expected regression in skills — referred to as the “COVID slide” — didn’t pan out as badly as predicted.
That’s good news for parents and educators who worried the yo-yo between shutdown, remote schooling and in-person classes would decimate educational momentum our students built in recent years. Many of us, especially parents who know we are no substitute for a classroom teacher, worried 2020 would snowball into a lost year for our children’s education.
But the concerning caveat borne in those test results is what didn’t appear on the charts. Nearly 1 million students didn’t participate in fall testing. Those are the students for whom we are most concerned.
Nearly all school administrators have reported unsettling numbers of students, some as young as kindergarten, who either don’t attend virtual classes, or have been left home alone to supervise their own remote education.
Most of us, if we’re lucky, couldn’t possibly understand the devastating circumstances many families in our region suffer this year. And we won’t pass judgment.
But what we do know, is there are many children in our orbit who, prior to the pandemic, found the little stability in their lives while at school. It’s a place where there always is a supportive adult. Two hot meals. An extra jacket and gloves. Clean clothes and a haircut. And a hug when they need it.
Many of our most vulnerable children lost all those things in 2020.
That’s why we understand and support the difficult decisions our local school administrators find themselves wrestling. They face a impossible choices.
A pandemic threatens all of our health now, but efforts to curb the disease is dealing daily damage to our most vulnerable children.
There is no great outcome when leaders are asked to weigh public health concerns against what promises to be a devastating year for many children in the Grand Traverse region.
We see no perfect outcome, no obvious choice.
But we do see many school leaders doing their best to protect and educate our children in near impossible circumstances.
And in the midst of a pandemic, that’s all we can ask.