Jennifer Bourne, a Charlotte mother who teaches in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, shared how she and her family are dealing with this unprecedented school year. (As told to Cardinal & Pine’s Sarah Ovaska)
I’m a parent, and a middle-school teacher in Charlotte. And I’m scared about what happens if my school district tells me that I need to go back to the classroom later this year.
My daughters – in kindergarten, third grade and sixth grade – are signed up for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ virtual classes for the year. But the school district may decide to return to in person learning in a few weeks.
I also care for my elderly dad, who is dealing with late-stage dementia, diabetes, and heart issues. I stay overnight with him one night a week to give my mom a little respite and am over at their house helping a lot. The last thing I want to do is bring this virus home from my job and give it to him – it would kill him.
I’m waiting to see if my dad’s doctors can give me some paperwork saying that I’m one of his caregivers and that going into a school would be too dangerous for our family given how quickly this virus can spread.
I also hate what this situation has done for my students and their families. I teach language arts in middle school, and our school is a Title 1 school, meaning there are large numbers of lower-income students. There are so many things backwards about how this crisis is being handled and the most vulnerable families are really seeing it.
In the spring, when school buildings closed and we switched to at-home learning, the state added extra funds to the electronic benefit (EBT) cards of families whose children qualified for reduced or free lunches. That was great and allowed them to buy food, but that’s not happening now, and we still have so many parents out of work. These families still need support like the EBT cards, but it’s not happening.
Some families in our school are also dealing with evictions. So, you have kids who are unsure of where they’re living and how they’re gonna eat, and you expect them to be learning online at the same time? It’s too much. Families need help.
Everyone wants things to be like they were, I get it. Everyone wants kids to be in classrooms, their teachers with them. Parents don’t want to scramble to suddenly figure out childcare options or how to juggle their own work and oversee school learning at the same time.
But we can’t return to normal when the pandemic is still so dangerous and the virus can still spread so quickly. So, let’s just do the right thing and stay remote until things are safe again. And then figure out how to really support families.
Just say we’re going to be remote for at least the first half of the year, so we can give everyone a break from all this arguing.
The whole community has got to get involved with advocating for our children, not just the teachers and families the most affected.
There are no more sidelines anymore. We all need to stand up to get families the support they need, and we need to tell that to our leaders at all levels.
I say this all the time, the crisis of leadership in this country at all levels is far more deadly than this pandemic.
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