Back to school?

Krissy M. Rardin, Copy Editor

The school year is back in full swing, with a few notable differences. While Lake Land College students dive headfirst into a semester of mainly online education, local elementary, middle and high schoolers are learning to navigate the same hurdles and then some. 

As a parent with children in both elementary and high school and a college student myself, I feel uniquely qualified to give my impressions of the way this school year has begun. The district was cautiously optimistic throughout the summer, sending almost daily updates as board meeting upon board meeting determined the fate of the students. Many parents were pushing for an in-person return, citing needs of childcare and apprehension toward conducting remote learning in their living rooms. Technology needs were a looming issue as well, with many families voicing concerns that they could not meet these requirements on their own. Some did not have internet for financial or personal reasons. Combined, the validity of these concerns swayed the district to offer parents the option of remote or in-person learning. However, as COVID-19 cases continued to grow in our area, remote learning was left as the only viable option. 

As I write, I am two weeks into remote learning with three children and myself. There are some positives. For instance, I have not purchased a single school supply; not a single one. New backpacks? Nope. Trudging through the Old Navy trying on back-to-school clothes? Didn’t happen. Even the usual medical requirements are on a delayed schedule: physicals, vaccinations, dental exams, all waived until the end of October. The dental exam, which is usually a huge ordeal with three kids, isn’t due until May 2021. I am willing to go out on a limb and say that I cannot be the only parent who is grateful for a bit more time in these aspects. The kids are home every day; there is no morning commute nor navigating the afternoon pick-up line. I don’t wonder what my high schooler is up to or worry that another kid is picking on him. 2020 has had its ups and downs, but it was the first March without a school shooting in my children’s lifetimes. There are no missed assignments. This mom isn’t easy to put one over on in the first place, and I am certain that my fourteen-year-old is thrilled with my constant presence. 

That said, the start of the year has not been without challenges. Due to the technological needs of local district students, the schools have been hard-pressed to provide materials in a timely manner. In Charleston, Ill., for instance, distribution of laptops was cycled by grade. High school students took precedent, middle schoolers second priority, and so on until all students in need were supplied with a device. This was not an issue for my oldest, but sharing a laptop with my first graders was no easy task for me. Now that they have devices of their own, my den is quite a circus, with a constant cacophony of strange children and their parents. Our cast of characters includes a woman I have affectionately named Tech Support Grandma, who requires daily reminders of how to use the mute button and other functions, Microwave Dad, who apparently lives on morning popcorn, and Not Enough Coffee Mom. She gets grumpy when the kid can’t find his homework packet. I feel you, Not Enough Coffee Mom, but take it down a notch. On the subject of homework packets, district parents are repeatedly finding themselves back at the very schools that are not safe to attend, retrieving more and more materials. Don’t get me started on PE in the living room. 

Though the rest of the school year remains to be seen, one thing is certain: I could never do the job that these teachers do. Even with all the trials, my children are met each morning with joy, excitement and patience. The district and teachers alike remain in constant communication with parents like myself, which lessens the confusion of navigating these odd times. I have been asked for nothing more than present children and a little backup when they need help navigating their assignments. As a mom, I would have done so regardless, remote or in-person. Some of you may recall a viral video in which a mom shops for school supplies. She thanks her children’s teachers, happily throwing extra into her cart. At one point, she says something to the effect of, “You want a coffee maker? You’re getting a coffee maker. Whatever you need to teach our kids all day, you can have.” We need to bring that same energy now. Our teachers and our children deserve it.

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