By Jennifer Wagner
The other day, I dropped an opinion piece — with no personal commentary — on my Facebook timeline from someone who was concerned about students going back to school in person.
I stuck my phone in my pocket and didn’t think much about the post until someone texted a few hours later to let me know the comments section had devolved into a virtual barroom brawl.
If you’re a parent right now, your feeds are probably similarly filled with articles about sending your kids back in person or removing your kids from public schools or pursuing homeschooling or debating health and safety best practices.
There are plenty of folks in the school choice movement who believe this is a pivotal moment to introduce families to different schooling options they might not previously have considered. I agree.
But also, y’all need to make some space.
Right now, I’m not personally interested in learning more about microschooling or pandemic pods because those things don’t affect me. Are they good ideas? Objectively speaking, yes, and I’m glad they’re available for families that want them. But they don’t affect me because my kids’ private school has gone back to the classroom with no remote or hybrid option. Because I signed a tuition contract back before the K-12 world turned upside down, that is my reality.
In an ironic twist, our school of choice—which I still love very much—gave us no choice. Some of my friends were equally frustrated when their public schools went online-only or gave an ultimatum that students who didn’t attend in person couldn’t participate in extracurriculars or sports.
I am worried at the moment about my kids’ learning and their mental health. I am worried about the teachers and staff at their school. I am worried about their support network, which includes older and immuno-compromised family members.
It feels like we’re assembling the plane while taxiing down the runway, and forgive me for being rude, but I’m simply not interested in your take on my choices — or lack thereof. My anxious brain already is running in circles trying to answer seemingly unanswerable questions about what comes next.
We school choice types put a lot of stock in trusting and empowering parents. That’s never been more important than it is right now.
But in order to trust and empower, you have to listen.
And for heaven’s sake, stop trying to make it political.
It’s possible to support the President but disagree with his repeated calls for schools to reopen in person because it doesn’t make sense for your family. It’s equally possible to be an anti-Trump Democrat who wants your children to return to the classroom because they have special needs that can’t be met via remote learning. Kids go to school to learn. Some also go because it’s a safe place with a hot meal. Some might not want to go because they are nervous about getting sick or getting someone they love sick.