Thank you for your comprehensive and balanced Aug. 20 cover story, "Schools shapeshift," by Rachel Otwell.
On Friday, March 13, I left my school in Springfield District 186 for the last time. I didn't know it then, but it became increasingly evident as time went by we would not be returning for the remainder of the year. It was gut-wrenching to say the least.
I am now retired after 43 years in the teaching profession. I wore many hats in my position, but one of my jobs was to help children in crisis. I dealt with everything from divorce of parents, to death in the family, to poverty, chemical dependence, to students who needed mental health help. So, I have seen and heard it all, so to speak. I have talked to students about storms, fire drills and active shooter drills. Now, this!
The decision to begin the year remotely is complicated and many-faceted. Major kudos to our Springfield District 186 administrators and other staff who have been working all summer long to be prepared for any contingency. The district has gone above and beyond to try to create a culture of equity. Students who don't have the necessary resources are provided them.
But the schools can't do it all. This is an historical time we all are living through. Similar to the hydroelectric power movement in the early 1900s, it's time to make some positive and lasting changes in the way we deliver instruction. Just like electricity, every home should have access to the internet. I believe that our school board made a wise but difficult decision.
While I understand the difficulties of remote learning and all of the complexities, let me be clear. I write this opinion from the point of view of a teacher who absolutely can go from zero to crazy in 30 seconds or less if I feel my babies are at risk. That's my lens. I've had to lovingly confront parents afraid of their child falling behind with the sad fact that the real need was to focus on their child's mental health first and foremost. So I will repeat what I bluntly told them, dead students can't learn. That may sound extreme. But it might be the grim reality, and it could be your child. In this case, it is the physical health of all students.
Just the logistics of conforming to CDC safety guidelines seems overwhelming to me. The cost of maintaining a safe and disinfected environment in school buildings from hour to hour or day to day would be exponential. Ultimately, it always falls into the laps of the teachers. Schools that have opened in-person learning are already reporting confirmed cases in their schools. I only expect those reports to increase.
In our district we pride ourselves on making data-driven decisions. I appreciate every board member and realize that they are in practically impossible positions. I applaud them and thank them for listening to the experts, looking at the data, and choosing to begin the year remotely. When the numbers go down, perhaps it will be more feasible for students to safely return.
Sherry Frachey is a veteran District 186 teacher, recently retired.