Back to School? Yes. And No.
Back to School? Yes. And no.
“Some students should go to school, most should stay home.” In this aptly titled and widely shared article, written by social worker and education expert, Shayla Griffin, MSW, Ph.D., eloquently and boldly reflects on the difficult decisions and impossible scenarios that parents and educators are facing as we prepare for the start of a new school year.
Our family is no exception. My decisions about what “back to school” should look like for our three children waivers on a near-daily basis. Our best-case scenario is also different for each child based on their personality, emotional development and learning style. One child, normally an honors student, was highly resistant to online learning. The other two thrived at the chance to log on, get their work done quickly, and move on with their day. Last weekend, we felt confident in our school choices for each of the kids. Then more information about virtual learning options prompted us to revisit all of our plans. Tomorrow, our most recent decision could easily snowball into something that feels much riskier.
Ultimately, there are no right or wrong answers to these impossible questions. We each have to choose based on our family’s circumstances and the information we have at the time. We also have to be willing to adjust accordingly if/when we have different information. In the absence of any national or statewide “return to learning” strategy, local school administrators are being asked to make impossible choices with very limited resources — especially in diverse communities like Euclid and Cleveland where the public school system has lost money through a broken funding model for decades. What I can tell you, based on multiple conversations with the superintendent, school board members, and curriculum development team, is that Euclid City Schools are rising to the challenge.
“The truth is, schooling as we knew it six months ago is over. We are being given the opportunity to re-envision education in a way that works for those we have historically failed. We should try to do so,” says Griffin. This notion has inspired me more than anything I have heard or read since March 13, 2020, when my children abruptly left their school buildings under an emergency order from Governor Mike DeWine.
Could this finally be our moment to re-think education in America?
What should a parent do if we care about teachers and kids, social justice, and public health? Griffin’s article offers six strategies for an equitable and safe return to school plan, one of which is a robust collaboration with mental health professionals for the support of students, teachers and families.
“If we focus only on the school losses — academics, social connections, services — we ignore the possibility that our efforts to educate students might kill them or their parents, teachers, siblings, friends — the very people upon which they depend for sustenance and support. And if we are most worried about the spread of this deadly disease, we risk huge numbers of students seeing whatever possible futures they had envisioned going down the drain. And both of these issues are leading to a third — a mental health crisis of a generation of Americans.”
In our house, the hierarchy of school-related decision making puts mental health first and foremost — it’s impossible to succeed in school or life without a sense of safety, security, coping skills and resilience. For us, academic achievement in the traditional sense comes second to integrity, work ethic and personal responsibility. I am much less concerned with standardized test scores, GPA averages, and other inept measurements of a person’s potential than I am with the kind of person my child will grow up to be. This leads to the third criterion for educational decision-making — personal responsibility to insist and participate in a more just and equitable future for all children, i.e. strong public schools. If my child can accomplish the first two criteria while also supporting public education, then that is our family’s goal.
What criteria is most important to you?
Whatever your family decides, please make sure that Euclid City Schools are one of the options you consider. I am a proud Euclid parent and Citizens for Euclid Schools volunteer. Euclid High School will be all virtual when classes resume in with the availability of one-to-one follow up for in-person support as needed. They have invested in staff training for online education and technology that will include iPads and/or Chromebooks for every student. If you know that in-person school is not the right fit for your child, I hope you will consider the option of enrolling in Euclid City Schools’ Virtual Learning Academy, a dedicated online teaching system with certified local instructors and available in-person support as needed. The entire Euclid City Schools re-opening plan, including potential classroom layouts and parent survey results, is available online at euclidschools.org.
To inquire about registering for Euclid schools and Euclid Virtual Learning Academy, contact Darylle Torbert at firstname.lastname@example.org call 216-797-2984. You can also follow @Citizens4EuclidSchools on Facebook and Instagram for more information.
Pam Turos is a long-time Euclid resident gearing up to re-model her "dream home" in the city she has called home for nearly twenty years. She is also a proud public school parent and owner of Good Cause Creative and WISH Cleveland.