I really, truly didn’t believe this day would come. I dropped off my third grader Lillie at her elementary school this morning. Seth dropped off our middle schoolers Max and Ella this morning. They are actually at school. I may have to go fall over. I’m currently home by myself for the first time in how long? I’m looking at all the beautiful back to school pictures on Facebook and it’s becoming a reality that the kids are back to school. I don’t know how this year will look. I will put on my strong, patient pants and continue to ride the wave of the pandemic.
In July my friend tends to text me all excited that the school supplies are out at Target. I cringe and text her back that she is nuts. I have never gotten myself to buy school supplies in July. Even Ella turned to me while we were shopping in Target this summer and asked me if they knew that it was summertime. Even Ella wants time to enjoy her summer and not think about school.
By the middle of August, I can usually start to wrap my head around buying school supplies. Not this year. This year I was waiting to hear about a delay to school. This year I didn’t even believe that they would need all of these school supplies. Our district has been so unpredictable and last minute with decisions. I expected the week (or day) before school to get an update that our district wasn’t ready to open. I was somewhat right. For the record, I didn’t want to be right.
Let’s go back to March 2020. Let’s go back to that day that it was announced that schools were closing. I saw other districts all around me having predicted that the school closures were coming. They had been preparing and were ready to rock to teach their students. Our school district wasn’t as prepared. I wasn’t worried. My children had phenomenal teachers and I knew that they would get a plan ready for their students.
School ended early for us in the middle of June instead of the end of June. I wondered all summer what school would look like this year. I know that all school staff worked hard this summer prepping for whatever was to come. Were they going to be all virtual? Were they going to be part time at school and part time at home? Were they going to have the kids with them every day? My district formed an opening committee and plans were made for the Fall.
When the plans were presented to parents, the parents were not satisfied. The good news is that my district takes into account what the parent’s opinions are. The bad news is that if you get caught up in trying to please everyone that will never happen, and things seem to have gotten worse in an attempt to make everyone happy. I may be dissecting this wrong. This is just my assessment of the situation at hand.
Parents were told to choose hybrid or remote for their children for school. For my children, they are the first half of the alphabet so hybrid would look like going to school Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday online, Thursday and Friday independent work. You could choose the 100% virtual option and your children would learn at home every day. The deadline to choose kept being extended because parents kept looking for details of each option to feel like they knew what they were choosing for their children. Parents were also told they could go back and forth between hybrid and remote learning. This instruction later changed after parents chose what option that they wanted for their children. We probably would have wanted to know that we can’t switch back and forth before we picked!
Let us fast forward to the Friday before school. It is 4:42 PM and our district receives an announcement that school needs to be delayed for remote learners grades 5-12 due to a lack of staffing. Read that again and realize that we received that announcement at the end of a Friday before a holiday weekend. Was I reading this right? Was he going to delay school for everyone or just for remote learners? Was it even legal to delay school for some kids but not for others? I felt perplexed trying to imagine sending my kids to school Tuesday while others were unable to get any instruction. It wasn’t feeling right to me. I figured I should stay tuned. I felt like there was more coming. I have learned over these last six months to expect anything!
It is the Saturday before school, and I decide that even though I’m not sure my kids are going to school Tuesday that I better get prepared just in case. It’s better to be prepared I tell myself, and Seth and I venture off to Target together. You would think that after all these years I would learn to shop early! You would also think that I would learn not to start with Target. They tend to be the ones out of everything first.
I stand there staring at three lists completely overwhelmed. I realize that I usually do this differently and I will remember this for next year. I usually bring Ella and Lillie with me and we will start at Walmart next year. As much as I dislike Walmart, they tend to have mostly everything we need. I usually hand Ella her list, hand Lillie her list, and then I am just standing there with Max’s list. My husband tells me that if I was really organized that I would have made a spreadsheet organizing all three lists onto one. I don’t even get mad at him for making that suggestion after the fact. I think that is a fabulous idea. I know I have thought of that before but why have I never tried that? Maybe next year? Do I say that every year?
Seth tries to throw things in the cart, and I keep taking stuff out and telling him why it is wrong. He tells me I am too controlling and huffs away telling me he’s not school shopping with me again. I don’t blame him. I know how he is. My mission man wants me to give him a list and let him knock it out. He doesn’t understand how my brain works. If the teachers asks for a red folder and composition notebook, then I want to get them a red composition notebook to match the folder. If the teacher asks for four composition notebooks of our choice, then I let the girls have fun picking out cute designs and pictures. Seth doesn’t get it at all and is frustrated with me as he throws black and white composition notebooks in the cart. Next year I am doing this shopping with my girls and Seth and Max can stay home. I appreciate that he tried to help!
We leave Target with most of their school supplies. The next day the girls help me at Walmart and Five Below and we are pretty much complete. I have never waited until the weekend before school to get organized, but I really didn’t believe that they were going back to school. Was I the only one feeling this way?
Our school board has an emergency board meeting and is visibly and understandably angry with our superintendent. I think the entire community joined them in feeling angry and frustrated. They are mostly questioning why we all found out about remote learners being delayed at 4:42 PM on a Friday before a holiday weekend. Why did the school board find out at the same time as everyone else? Why weren’t they involved in this in an attempt to problem solve together. Why wasn’t legal counsel advised before the announcement? They fire question after question. Don’t crucify me, I get it, I agree with all the anger, but I find myself having empathy for our superintendent. Was he doing a great job? Honestly, I have NO idea? Through all the complaining about our superintendent and how he has handled things, I have never felt like I have had enough information to make judgement. I know that you are going to tell me that I am being way too nice. I don’t think one person is ever to blame for a situation. I was trained in a systemic approach of counseling and it taught me all the factors that go into a problem. It is never just one factor. I also want to state that all arrows point me in the direction that he wasn’t doing a good job. I also worry about everyone’s mental health who is involved. This includes not only our Superintendent but also his children who probably went to school today.
Our school board is pissed and after a couple of hours they end the public meeting and move into their executive meeting. The public waits with baited breath to hear what the outcome of the executive meeting is. We wait and we wait, and we become frustrated that there is no update. I just want to know if my kids are going to school or not on Tuesday. I also want you all to know that my heart goes out to all the remote learners. I do not believe it is fair for my kids to start school on Tuesday. I think everyone should have to wait. That is just my opinion. I know there are a ton of people that don’t agree with me.
Are you ready to hear more about my crazy school district? If you follow the news you have probably heard all of this already! We move into the Monday before school and if I am completely honest with you, I am still waiting to hear that all students in my district are being delayed. We finally get a notification that there is another emergency board meeting at 5:00 PM the day before the first day of school. I can’t make this stuff up. This is all completely crazy, and the texts begin to fly in! What could this be about? My thoughts were: 1) delaying school for all 2) firing the superintendent 3) update for remote learners 4) all students going remote until further notice. Those were my four guesses. Would you like to take a guess of which answer it was before I give it away? It was number 2! The Superintendent was put on immediate leave and a new Super who I know as the Assistant Superintendent of HR was voted in as our acting Superintendent. The good news is that we have a staffing issue so who better than to handle this issue than the head of HR. The bad news is that they were putting our Superintendent on leave the day before school. Does this seem crazy to anyone else? My friend told me today that it was about time that they got rid of him. I don’t disagree with his statement. The timing of it all just always seems insane to me. I appreciate them being proactive. I have faith in my district that everyone will come together and work out the issues. The drama continues! What will come next?
Now that we had a new acting Superintendent, was he now going to announce that school was delayed for everyone? I just kept proceeding through my Monday as if the kids were going to school tomorrow. Prepare but have zero expectations, I kept telling myself.
I read that school was happening tomorrow, so I put all my kids to bed. Backpacks were packed, outfits were picked, lunches were prepped, and we were ready! I was so cautious that as soon as I woke up, I ran to my phone to see if there was an announcement. Hair was done, teeth were brushed, outfits were on, new sneakers came out of their boxes, backpacks and lunches were all ready and I still didn’t believe it. My husband even asked me what he could do to help! I loved that he asked me that. What a wonderful question to ask me. That’s something that we really work on. I work on asking for help and he works on asking me what I need. I wish he would have asked me that ages ago about the first day. I will explain why!
Pick ups and drop offs at my children’s schools are going to be different. First, you have to take your child’s temperature and fill out a questionnaire for each child online and submit it before you send them to school. Second, they have to take their temperature at school before they let them come in. My husband took my middle schoolers, but it seemed to go smoothly at both schools.
I’m sitting here typing during the first day of school so I can’t tell you how it went yet. I can’t tell you how they did wearing a mask all day? I can’t tell you how they did sitting far apart in the lunch room? I don’t know much. I don’t know how pick up is going to go. The middle school pick up will be the same and the kids come out and find me. At the elementary school they are going to radio in to get your child and walk them to your car. This could take forever. How do I think I am going to be on time to get my middle schoolers? I have no idea? Let’s just say my flexible husband realized that I needed him to change his schedule so that he could go to middle school. At least on the first day. Let us see how this goes and see how long it takes me at pick up number one. I needed him to at least be on call.
I said that I would fall over if my kids went back to school today. I said I didn’t believe it. Everyone is telling me to think positively and you know that I usually do. I am cautiously optimistic. While they are allowed to go to school, I will let them go.
I am not perfect, and I still have freak out moments. Taking their temperatures, remembering masks, remembering to pack Ella’s glasses (she is newly wearing contacts), remembering paperwork…..it all gave me a panicky moment or two this morning. It is all new. There is so much that is new. There is so much to remember. The hardest part in all of this is as kids get colds, allergies, viruses, the flu, we are all going to panic and wonder if it’s Covid? If only there were easy at home tests that we could all use. That would make our lives so much easier.
My school district has taught me so much. What have I learned about leadership? I have learned that a great leader really tries to gather as much information as possible. I have learned that a great leader is a great collaborator and involves all necessary parties in making key decisions. A good leader has clear and consistent communication with all involved parties. I have learned even more the importance of being authentic and honest in your communication. Do I think my superintendent did a great job? NO. Do I think it is only his fault with the things that have occurred? NO. However, I have tremendous hope and faith in my district. I trust that under new leadership that all key parties will work together to remedy the current situation. The biggest issue right now is to get these remote learners up and running. My heart goes out to them as they wonder when their start date will be.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be cautiously optimistic. I think it’s wonderful that I still have so much hope and faith that things will work out. I am completely embarrassed that our district made national news for what a complete mess it has been. However, I want to tell every single person reading this how amazing the staff at both my children’s schools are. I am still proud to send my children to schools in this district. The Principals, the teachers, the aids, the custodians and the list goes on in regards to the incredible staff that are there for my children and so many others.
Let us use our powers for good and put out good energy. Let us put out there that the new Superintendent will do a good job. Let us think that the remote learners in grades 5-12 will be ready to go very soon. Let us all think about this school year going smoother than last year. If we all put out good energy it will multiply into something wonderful.
I picked up all my children from their first day of school. I was number three in line to get Lillie. They radioed into the gym and brought her to my car in plenty of time to head to school number two to get Max and Ella. Thank you to my wonderful husband for being on call in case I needed help. The line to get Lillie was extremely long when I left.
I definitely know the kids don’t love wearing a mask all day. I’m so glad they get breaks. Lillie couldn’t believe she had to wear a mask during recess. Lillie loves her new teacher. Max and Ella said they both have a few really great teachers. They didn’t like all the new safety rules. They didn’t like how they had to sit in the lunchroom. They sit at an individual desk and they all face the same way 6 feet apart. There were several complaints, but I think they will adjust, and it will all be okay. It’s also only two days a week.
I am in awe that I actually sent my kids to school today. We will see how long this lasts. I am hopeful and I am also realistic. Next up is another school board meeting at 7 pm tonight. Let us see how this goes and let us see how the new superintendent does. It’s a new day in Williamsville as our new super told us and I think it’s going to be great.
My Tips for the new school year
- If we don’t make a big deal of something, then our kids won’t either. I also want to note that sometimes we need to make a big deal – like when remote learning is delayed.
- If we stay positive, then our kids will too. You can also influence your friends with a positive attitude.
- Be flexible.
- Expect changes.
- Use your supports.
- Let go of control and accept help.
- Remember that your children will adjust to the changes.
- You are the best advocate for your child.
- When you don’t like something try to come up with a solution that you can give to teachers, staff, administrators, and board members. Be an active problem solver.
- Be easy on yourself. You are managing a lot. You are the CEO of your home. You got this.
Let me know how your children’s first day of school went. Let me know how they are adjusting to all the changes. Happy back to school. I can’t believe they went to school today!
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R