With fears looming around the current Covid-19 environment, remote classrooms and distance learning models have become a serious topic of discussion where some districts have already resorted to this option for their schools. While remote learning may seem like the “best” solution, it is hardly a substitute for an in-person classroom setting; for children to thrive at their highest ability, it’s imperative that students have structure, order and normal childhood interaction among other students and teachers. Academics is only a fraction of what children take away from school. We feel very fortunate that our district is comprised of teachers, aids, staff and administrators that truly care and do far more than just educating our youth.
With decisions regarding the return to school on the brink, we wanted to provide feedback as two local USD 470 graduates who are currently raising four elementary aged children in our local schools. Just for a little background on our experience the past few months with COVID-19, we have both continued to work full-time, in person (one job being at the largest employer in the county that has over 1000 employees) with no concerns and minimal changes to our day to day tasks from our previous work environments for the entire COVID-19 pandemic. We feel very strongly that precautions can safely be made at the schools to allow for social distancing without requiring mask mandates for all children. We know that many may feel masks are the best option and want to wear them, however it should be a personal choice for adults and their children. Our local commission already determined this should be a personal decision when they voted to not issue a mask mandate for Ark City. As taxpayers, we help fund the schools and should be able to make our own choice regarding our children wearing masks to school. In regards to teachers, the district does have the authority to require teachers to wear masks as their paid employees.
We know your decisions will be seismic for families in many different ways, but for our family, we feel very strongly about the importance of in-person classroom instruction without mask requirements – specifically for younger elementary aged children. There are many other concerns and challenges that come from cancelling in-person classroom education that include childcare for younger children with working parents, technology requirements, meals, transportation, etc. that all need to be taken into account when making this decision. As parents of four young children in the USD 470 district, we will only be enrolling our students if mask are optional for our children and the district will offer in-person classroom schooling.
Brandon and Courtney Every