In days, the state of Minnesota will make a decision about school opening for 2020-21. In some states, schools may already be open. In our state, most schools open the day after Labor Day. Usually, the ritual would be as it has always been. This year is very different, literally and inevitably a life or death matter for someone entering the school as student or staff.
This year is not routine.
There will probably be at least 51,000,000 students in American public schools, maybe 5 million more in alternative learning situations. About 1 of every 7 Americans are school age. They are unique individuals, virtually all of them under age 18, and in various ways bring home to school with them every day. In many ways, school is their community.
Add to this immense number of students about 10%, another 5 million or so, teachers and other school staff of all sorts, and millions upon millions of parents and other concerned adults, and infinite variations of opinions and concerns, and you get an idea of the potential for predictable disasters this fall. All that is unknown is specific dates, times, places.
It is not so simple as saying go back to school.
Of course, there are millions more who depend on the school industry, as school bus manufacturers. They are not included here. They do not “go to school” – they profit from it.
“Raise your hand” if you’ve ever been a school staff member, anywhere, any time in history. Almost certainly you went to a public or private school as a student. “School” is not a novel concept.
Personally, I taught 8th graders for nine years, mostly in the 1960s in suburban Minneapolis. I was an 8th grader in tiny Ross North Dakota in 1953-54. I would venture that kids in the 1960s, when I taught in suburban Minneapolis; were not much different than today’s 8th graders coming back to school this Fall. Kids were, and still are, kids.
This will be a very difficult year, not easy. School staff along with medical personnel in particular are on the front lines. Among great numbers of others: stories clerks if ask sorts. On and on. And peoples lives are at stake, of all ages. We need to work together.
POSTNOTE: I bring a certain amount of experience to this conversation: Nine years as a teacher of 8th graders, 27 years representing teachers, growing up in a home where both parents were public school teachers; as well as two Uncles and three Aunts, all teachers. Father of a long-time middle school principal; grandfather of nine kids, six of whom have already graduated from high school; 3 still in school, one of them in Special Education because of medical circumstances rising from an accident a couple of years ago.
This doesn’t make me an ‘expert’, but at least as much as anyone else who proffers an opinion on the topic.