This summer, stretching both infinitely long and impossibly short, comes to a close this coming Wednesday, September 2, as Benji starts second grade. Most of the summer we spent uncertain about schooling — in person? hybrid? all online? — but assuming all online. A month or so ago the school district confirmed our assumptions, ending that speculation but opening up a world of further speculation about how all-online would work.
About 10 days ago, answers started coming in. At first, we eagerly consumed every message, discussed it, thought about the repercussions and how we’d deal with whatever information in contained. But what started as a trickle soon turned to a flood, a veritable deluge of messages, often several in a day coming from all different entities: the district, the school principal, the teacher, the school nurse… At one point, I counted over a dozen school-related emails in 10 days.
Many messages reiterated information from other messages, included links mentioned elsewhere, and generally cross-pollinated in the most confusing possible way. Each individual entity did their best to clarify things, but all of them together clarifying actually confused matters even more.
After a while I took a break from reading them. Benji, Dad, and I spent one night at Mt. Rainier in Ohanapecosh Campground, which has no internet or phone coverage. (Hallelujah! such places still exist!) (More on that trip later.) Not surprisingly, I arrived home to even more messages, but I felt ready to face them all.
So I spent some of today facing the emails. We completed and returned forms, watched training videos, set up online portals, added bookmarks to Benji’s computer, and collected school supplies.
In fact, we’re nearly ready for school to start, with just Benji’s school space to tidy up from a summer’s worth of doodle accumulations. He loves fills up reams of paper with quickly sketched pictures that then simply cannot be recycled. We shall see. I didn’t paint his entire closet Rumba Orange just to fill it up with doodled-on scratch paper.
Getting ready took both me and Ian a good chunk of time, plus Benji and I some more time. I want to know: If I feel overwhelmed, how do people not in my comfortable position feel? What if I worked two jobs and was a single mom? What if I didn’t speak English? What if I didn’t have a good internet connection? What if I had all that and multiple kids? How would I find the time, resources, and energy to prepare my kids for success in this new world of online schooling for everyone?
I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. There’s privilege and inequality distilled, right there.
I don’t have a fix. Our district and school are trying; I see it in the emails. But you have to read the messages and take even more actions to get free lunches or obtain a device and mobile hot spot from the district.
It’s heart-wrenching to see inequality striking so deeply into the heart of our communities — our children — just when they need education and the support of a school system more than ever.