School After the Pandemic

At the beginning of this pandemic, I, like many other parents, had hope.

I hoped the pandemic would slow down and that our children would be able to return to school before the school year ended. However, as the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, I realized that would not be possible. At some point, it dawned on me that what we knew to be our normal would not be returning anytime soon.

In the back of my mind, I knew that at some point we would have to deal with returning to school, but I pushed those thoughts as far back as possible as I did not want to deal with another topic that would cause me anxiety. Last week I realized that I could no longer put off the discussion of returning to school this fall. As local government officials began to survey parents and began to put into writing their different plans and ideas for a safe re-opening to our schools this fall, my brain began to spin. What will I do with my three children? Will I keep them at home for remote learning? Will that even be an option? What options do I have as a working parent? If I send them back, am I putting them in harm's way?

Over the past few months, I have read many articles online and seen many posts from educators and parents about the safe re-opening of schools. Some I found helpful while, others I found offensive to working parents like myself -- authors who assume that all working parents see schools and teachers as babysitters. I have never thought of school as a babysitter for my children and I know many parents who feel the same way I do. Schools and teachers are a safe place where we send our children to learn and grow.

After many sleepless nights and after receiving the possible schedule for my seven year old twin girls who will be entering the second grade this fall, I have come to the following conclusions:

As a working mom I have to decide what is best for my family.

I can’t let what other families are doing for their children affect how I make my decisions.

Every family has very specific needs and more importantly, every child has different needs.

We should not judge or point fingers at other families, we are all in this together as parents and are weathering this unprecedented storm as best we can.

If, for your own mental well-being and that of your child or children, you decide that returning to the classroom in whatever capacity is what is best for you and your family, then go ahead and do that.

The thing I have come to realize is that no answer is right, this pandemic is just as new to scientists as it is to us. There is not a lot of data regarding young children and how the virus affects them. There are many immune-compromised children whose parents just do not have the option to send them to school and must keep them at home. We, then, have the parents who just do not have enough information regarding this epidemic and would rather keep their children at home. Then, you have parents such as myself whose employer really does not give them a choice -- you either work and earn a living or stay home with your children. Whatever your situation, always remember to take things one day at a time, do not sweat what you can’t control, do what is best for you and your family, and above all, shut out all the haters with their unwanted comments. At the end of the day, their comments have no relevance in how you or I live our lives.

Helen Tejeda-Ramos, Age 43, is a mom of twin girls, plus a boy. She's married to a retired US Coast Guard for almost 12 years, NYSi Courts Employee by day, but still trying to decide what she wants to be when she grows up.