cornell university campus

Like lots of parents I can still remember the first time I dropped my children off at school. Being a teacher myself didn’t make it any easier. No amount of familiarity with the way a school functions could prepare me for that emotional moment when I had to walk away from my girls and leave them in the more than capable hands of my fellow educators. Educators who routinely start the school year under circumstances that many have come to expect to be challenging and difficult for any number of reasons.?From budget cuts, limited resources, and state mandates, to the latest school shooting; educators start the school year with one goal in mind: keeping our students safe and healthy so they can learn. We do this despite the many obstacles and barriers thrown in our way by external forces beyond our control.?

However, this school year is unlike any we have faced in my many years in the classroom. This year we have been asked to add to the many roles we already play in addition to teacher, such as mentor, technology expert, counselor, conflict resolution mediator, and active shooter drill manager; our new role: infectious disease specialist. We’ve been asked to do this during a pandemic which has infected over 6 million Americans and killed nearly 200,000 and counting. While at the same time our country suffers some of the highest unemployment levels since the Great Depression and civil and political unrest not seen since the 1960s. Not to mention the overwhelming amount of new technology related requirements that under the best of circumstances would be more than enough to wrestle with while trying to deliver the best education possible to our students.??

This moment demands that we ask this essential question: Are we ready as teachers, parents, family members and communities for what this school year may bring? Can anyone honestly say right now that as a country we are ready for what could potentially be a second wave of infections that could be worse than what we’ve seen so far? As educators and parents we know there is a level of risk involved when a normal flu season comes around, but now we will be trying to teach and tend to the many new pandemic influenced educational and emotional needs of our children while an airborne infectious disease continues to wreak havoc on our nation. Will the reopening plans at our children’s schools be enough? And how could we really know since no one has ever done this before. ?Do we feel absolutely confident that everything that could be done has been done on the national, state, and local levels to ensure the health and safety of our children, their teachers and all the other hard working members of our schools whose job it is to make sure everything runs efficiently? Do we? If we can’t answer “yes”, with total certainty, then we must reconsider any and all plans before we risk the health and safety of even one child or adult.??

Security cameras, electronic door locks, fire drills, and school resource officers can’t protect us from this disease. It has never been more critically important to get this right.?Our children are depending on us.?

(1) comment

Elisabeth Hegarty

The man who posted the article ended with the words, "Our children are depending on us." Actually, it is the Ithaca community who is depending on the children. No matter what precautions it has taken and all of the efforts that have been made, Cornell cannot police every student, especially the students living in off-campus housing. There have been countless sightings of groups of students not wearing masks, not social distancing. The parents of students and students themselves must have known this school year would not be like the others, that people's lives were at stake and dependent upon responsible behavior by the students. The students (our children, as the poster noted) need to become adults and, at a time like this, either play by the rules or leave the university and return at a future time when irresponsible behavior will not cause others to become ill or possibly die.

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