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We Must All Do Our Part For Schools

2020 July 20
by Mike Vial
These two kids are handling month four of this pandemic with resilience and creativity, but they need your help.
They have sacrificed a lot, and they so badly want to go to school in September. (Ginny packed her new school bag in June! She cried yesterday, after I introduced the idea that school opening in the fall could be online.)
Their father, a high school teacher, wants the same. He misses his students. He doesn’t see a positive way forward, though; he only sees bad, bad, and worse choices for the fall. (He cried yesterday, with his daughter, as they hugged after discussing the possibility of school being online, for them both.)
He also cried because he is tired of people pretending the Coronavirus is a political division. He is tired of certain politicians, ones that will remain nameless, dividing teachers against families with their empty rhetoric.
No–this writer is a teacher and a father. You can’t split him in half with words. His heart has been hurting for months, but his children have kept him together.
So this father and teacher is publicly telling all politicians and families that he and his kids have been doing our part, and if you expect schools to open in the fall or winter, you must do the same. His family is only four pieces of the fixable, yet painful, puzzle. All actions we take these six weeks in Michigan work for or against us. We have the power, together.
How have these two kids inspired you to sacrifice? First, Ginny and Alton have only seen their grandparents and great grandmother so far, starting in June, during this pandemic. We know that if school starts face-to-face, we may not see them for a while, so we’ve prioritized lowering our risk as potential, asymptotic spreaders. They miss playing with friends; it’s not an easy sacrifice. We are lucky to do it together.
If they can sacrifice their birthday parties, you can sacrifice your trip to a bar. Order carryout.
Potentially going back to school worries their father. He doesn’t want preschool to be without hugs for crying children, or literature lessons to be only delivered in desks, a few feet apart (six feet isn’t possible). His classroom doesn’t have windows, and the school’s HVAC system is old…He only was given $25 total for his classroom supplies this year. He can’t work his part time job, music performance, that has supplemented his classroom in previous years.
He also really doesn’t want his family to contract this novel virus.
His school’s geographic area has a low number of diagnosed cases now, but we are by the Detroit Metro Airport. In the spring, we had one student lose both of her grandparents. This teacher talked to three students on his online class roster who had lost family by May. Many parents in his district work for the airlines in Metro Detroit. If students return in his building, the virus is guaranteed to thrive.
He and his family will likely get it, too. As a second year teacher in this district, he doesn’t have enough sick days for quarantines, but that’s not as scary as the unknown.
Instead, he also worries about how NOT going back to school brings challenges for his students’ families and guardians. We are a lose/lose moment now, one he didn’t picture back in April.
In April, he thought we had learned to take this seriously for the long term. Two parents of his students last term were nurses in Covid-19 wards, unable to see their kids for weeks at a time.
During a phone conference, one parent said, “I know my daughter isn’t doing her school work, but she needs to focus on her school challenges on her own right now. I’m experiencing too much stress at my hospital to help her.” This teacher replied, “That’s ok. She’s not alone. I’m here to help her. I’ll update you how we’re doing.”
But now this teacher and father is asking for your help.
Let’s return to the picture. We are at our neighborhood, isolated park by our church, again. No one else is here. Our masks are packed in the diaper bag, but our neighborhood provides us the privilege of being safe outside, acting as if it’s a normal, sunny day. (In a way, this has been our normal.)
This father, this teacher, asks you to create your new normal that make your actions powerful against spreading the Coronavirus virus: Avoid attending or hosting large gatherings; wear masks; support essential workers; donate to food banks; stay home or go outside in safe environments as much as possible. Take this as seriously as these two kids have all spring and summer.
Ginny is five. She understands what has been happening in her own imaginative way. On her walk to the park today, she asked, “Daddy, are the princesses at Disney World being safe, too? And the princes?”
For now, I’m asking all of you princesses and princes, kings and queens, to do your part. For them.
This is my final post on this topic for the summer. Shaming people doesn’t work to persuade them. They are probably just as worried as this teacher, but demonstrating that fear differently.
Maybe looking at these two children’s hopeful faces (one obviously dressed herself today) will persuade us more to see that we have the power to stop the spread, but only if we act together, if we consider sacrifices to help our one human family.
Listen to the health experts. Expect some information to change as we learn more about the virus. Recognize that the economy won’t fully return until we manage the spread to the point that testing isn’t a week or more for results and, contact tracers can reach exposed people. This is obvious: They can’t right now…
Many people have sent supportive messages, and a few have sent this father mean ones. But the Coronavirus has no feelings; however, these two kids do, as do all other wonderful children of our state.

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