COVID fatigue: borne of that daily reminder of our own mortality and the mortality of those we care about, of the suffering of illness, the suffering of trying to stave off illness only to fail. We’re a global society trying to out-think, out-science a sequence of RNA which is out-mutating our collective human intellect.
In the midst of such an uncontrollable, ever-evolving situation, parents are simultaneously grieving the loss of their own way of life and their expectations of their childrens’ childhoods yet are compelled to carry on, while worried about the long term consequences of their parenting choices and how to ensure the education of their children.
Recently, a dad of a 10 year old elementary school student, whom is COVID tested weekly per Los Angeles Unified School District policy, shared his concerns about such an extreme action and her consistently contending with, “Am I sick this time?” thoughts, but unsure how else he can protect his daughter. Her young friend is still suffering from a loss of smell after contracting COVID last winter and he does not want his daughter to similarly suffer.
For other parents, at least in California where I reside who do not want their children to wear masks at school, K-8 teachers are being asked to separate non-masked kids from their masked classmates and keep them outdoors. Given California’s mandate and the CDC’s recommendations that students and educators wear masks indoors, if educators mix unmasked and masked kids together, the school and district can lose insurance liability coverage.
However, at high schools, teachers are advised to offer unmasked students a mask, keeping a stockpile on hand in their classrooms, but cannot force the student to wear the mask, nor sanction them by sending them out of class. The unmasked student is simply allowed to sit in the classroom.
While no unmasked student will be sent home and all parents are trying to do what’s best for their children, we may essentially create a segregated student body. As school community bonds have already been stretched thin for the past eighteen months, starting the school year divided isn’t necessarily conducive to reestablishing collaborative communities and trusted relationships to learn together.
Yet, still other parents are unclear on the protocols if their children are exposed to a COVID positive student or staff while attending school. In some districts, ideally, the school nurse is supposed to call a family to explain the process, yet being inundated and already short-staffed, nurses can be multiple days behind in contacting families. In the interim, parents are unclear about whether to send their children back to school or keep them home.
To compound difficulties, many school districts are not offering virtual learning opportunities with their current teacher, either asynchronous or synchronous. Students are simply missing class days and relegated to fill in the blanks with homework packets. One teacher shared that simultaneous live streaming from multiple classrooms is not possible given internet bandwidth limitations, plus in multiple districts in California, school district officials want to force students to attend class and not remain extended, learning from home.
As we adjust to life with COVID, we’re all working to redefine our daily routines and adjust how we’re educating the young. We’re watching a way of life unravel, while challenging our expectations of “normal”, all under the pallor of fearing serious illness and possibly death. Our ability to collectively act, which depends on hashing out our differences not being divided by them, could define the saving grace that could define the history of this chaotic time.