Last August while emailing my daughter’s second-grade teacher to thank her for all her efforts, I told her that we’ll treat every day of in-person learning as a gift, being grateful for as many as we can get. As the Weld RE-4 school district was devising its strategy for in-person learning last summer, no one had any idea just how long it would last. I was optimistically hoping it’d last long enough for my daughter to at least develop a rapport with her teacher so that she would at least feel a connection before her class inevitably went to remote-schooling.
Forty weeks later, I am elated that our children were blessed with in-person learning throughout the entire school year. This achievement would not have been possible without the exhaustive efforts, ingenuity, and sacrifice by the Weld RE-4 district, with virtually no help from any parents or community volunteers. This milestone should be celebrated and everyone – from the superintendent to the principals and administrators, to the teachers, to the support staff – is owed a debt of gratitude from our community, one that can never be repaid. Despite being pandemic heroes, they’ll likely never receive a holiday, a jet fly-over, or a parade.
However, with only four days left in the school year, their accomplishments are being tarnished by an outrage mob that demands an immediate policy change to the mask mandates at school. Educators in the final sprint of an agonizing year are now being accosted by parents complaining that a policy in place for over 97% of the school year shouldn’t be allowed to last one day more.
It doesn’t seem that many realize or appreciate that this pandemic altered nearly every facet of the daily operations at the school, forcing educators to re-imagine everything: how students get to school, how they use supplies, how they play at recess, even how they eat lunch. While the mask policy is a very visible one for parents, dozens of other policies are in place to mitigate risks associated with a contagious airborne virus. Immediately changing this single policy doesn’t take into account the downstream impacts this would have on others and the difficulty of immediate policy change amidst the end of the school year.
I get having this debate if it were day 99 of a 170-day school calendar, but we’re at day 167, being told that something in place for the previous 166 days is suddenly no longer acceptable. Many direct their ire largely at teachers and principals that are powerless in this situation. They have no choice but to take the abuse, adding to the most excruciating year in their careers. I realize that many are claiming to be largely focused on the fall, but to raise the issue at this exact moment callously belittles this year’s achievements, ensuring our educators end their hardest school year on a sour note. This will definitely pollute the job pool for current and prospective educators that are discerning their service in our community.
The educators of Weld RE-4 have given us 170 in-person schooling gifts, each day accomplished through tireless work, endless sacrifice, extracting a toll that will never be fully appreciated. Instead of an attitude of petulant entitlement, complaining about the wrapping of the last four gifts, how about we give them our gratitude and support for the educational mountains they moved?