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The most subliminal voice between the Fairfax County Public Schools and the federal government discord is the voice of the parents.
No matter which community you belong to or which state you live in, if you are a parent, one of your biggest concerns these days is probably the reopening of the schools. And if you are living in Fairfax County, your biggest concern these days is that the reopening of schools does not become politicized.
I write this as an apolitical parent, and even though I may have my preferences, I certainly don’t want my children to suffer because of a politicized decision. When it comes to the education of my children, I don’t care whether the decision-makers are liberals or conservatives, whether they vote red or blue: For me, the most important thing right now is the safety of my children, with the second most important thing being education.
Besides millions directly or indirectly suffering from this pandemic, millions are also suffering from the mass confusion COVID-19 has brought. The divisiveness and the debate around appropriate safety measures is mind-boggling. Both schools of thought feel that they are in the right, and the tilted sides of the media are also adding fuel to fire. On top of all that, the Wild West of the information world—social media—is only making matters worse. In this environment, it's unfair to expect parents to make an informed decision. They need guidance, they need support, and they need leadership.
As parents, we are measuring every decision before we make it. The only thing we know for certain is that over 50,000 new cases are now being reported daily. We also know that, while in most countries the cases are flatlining or dropping, cases in America are on the rise, and it has become the worst-hit country in the world, according to The Guardian.
Given these circumstances, the Fairfax County school system offered parents and teachers two options for the start of the next school year:
- OPTION 1: 100% virtual online learning, or
- OPTION 2: Face-to-face instruction in school buildings at least two days a week.
This was simple, and our family was excited. We opted for Option 2 as we had faith in the system that proper precautions will be taken when our children return to school. Our neighbors chose Option 1, and we exchanged pros and cons with each other while standing six feet apart and wearing masks.
On July 8, the U.S. Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, in a conference call with U.S. governors, said this about the schools:
“They must fully open, and they must be fully operational.”
This drew an instant response from Fairfax County School Superintendent Scott Brabrand, who issued a statement which read:
“The health and safety of our staff, our students, and our community must come before politics. We would all prefer to have a normal in-person school year. But we cannot have the same number of students in the same number of available buildings for the same amount of time and still maintain the social distancing that the CDC and other health experts say is essential to protect children and teachers from this global pandemic.”
This led to an ever-increasing uncertainty for parents. No one knows what will happen next, and many are now confused about whether the county is making the right decision or the government is right about fully operational and fully open schools. There are so many factors. For instance, what do teachers think? Did students learn with online models, or was it frustrating for everyone? Would administrators be able to adequately enforce social distancing and regular disinfecting routines throughout schools? If students have to stay home, how does that affect working parents and their careers?
We would love to hear your thoughts! The following options are being discussed. Which one do you think is the best option for your child returning to school?