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Wednesday, August 12 News

Deborah Rose column: In-school and hybrid learning carry too many risks for students

Things are really heating up. And I’m not talking about the temperature outside, but rather a debate in communities across America.

Parents, teachers and school administrators are faced with a dilemma: How does a new school year begin safely while the country is still immersed in a pandemic and the number of cases and deaths continues to spike in many states?

Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have implemented a travel advisory for 31 states whose numbers are on the rise. Thirty-one states. Let that sink in.

Parents in the Greater New Milford area are raising their concerns about opening schools to local leaders, boards and committees, and legislators.

Many parents — including myself — do not want to send their children back to school. And my children have expressed their concerns about going to back to school this coming year.

Families like mine that already have a loved one in the home who falls into the high-risk category have heightened concern of the potential consequences of sending a child or children from that home to a school.

A friend of mine spoke with her two young children about what the new school year would look like — masks all day, social distancing and desks far apart, hand sanitizer. One child wants to stay home; the other wants to go back.

She reminded them if they go back to school, they would have to cut down on who they see in their family because their attendance at school would bring possible exposure to their loved ones.

The decision to send a child back to school comes with such heavy emotion.

New Milford posted its draft 38-page document, “Path to Reopening 2020-21,” July 17 at www.newmilfordps.org.

At the direction of the state, school districts had to come up with a plan for reopening that encompasses in-person, hybrid and remote learning by July 24.

New Milford parents immediately raised their concerns about information included — and not included — in the draft. Topics have included the use of masks, social distancing and coherts (small groups), notification of exposure and much more.

Everyone needs to think about varied ways to continue to provide education to our children, so the proposed plans make sense. I get that.

But the new academic year will start in the coming weeks, and most school districts don’t know what that will really look like. Things change almost on a daily basis.

I am not a fan of in-school learning. Or the hybrid option, for that matter. They both carry too many risks.

With the hybrid model, what’s the point of having children go to school two or three days a week and do remote learning the rest of the week? Exposure risks would still exist at school on the days they attend. That’s as bad as going five days a week.

I appreciate the efforts being made to get students back into the classroom. They thrive with structure and social interaction. They need it.

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I recognize that not all families can easily participate in remote learning. Jobs and other responsibilities make it difficult to help children with their schoolwork at home.

But the reality is, the virus is still out there. Look at the hot spots around the country.

Having helped my two children with remote learning for the last several months of the 2019-20 school year, I acknowledge the challenges involved.

There were days neither child wanted to do work, and I agreed. I picked my battles, but we made things work.

I feel it’s worth facing those challenges again with remote learning for the 2020-21 school year than sending the kids back to the classroom with so many uncertainties.

The days are ticking away. We are closer to the start of the school year, and whatever is decided by school districts won’t make everyone happy.

This is not a one-size-fits-all situation.

Families will have to decide what is best for them. It’s that simple.

Deborah Rose is a lifelong New Milford resident who has worked at The Spectrum since its inception in 1998. She can be reached by email at drose@newstimes.com.

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