Elizabeth Ellis 17

Bringing the Kids Back to School

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Dear Members of the Cary 26 Board of Education and Members of the Return to School Task Force

We are parents of District 26 students, writing on their behalf with the aim to urge and support you, members of the Cary 26 Board of Education and Members of the Return to School Task Force, to return to a full, in-person learning format is expedient a time frame as is possible. We recognize the hard work and dedication demonstrated by the teachers, staff, and administrators and we understand the importance of taking reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of all members of the community. We understand that there are major challenges is opening the schools to in-person learning. We believe these challenges can be overcome through planning, collaboration, and dedication. We offer our assistance where it is of value because we believe in the importance of bringing our children back.

Members of the community voiced individual concerns at the February 23 School Board Meeting. Parents shared stories from their own homes of children struggling with remote or hybrid learning. They urged the board members to not only consider the health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the impacts of relying solely on remote and limited hybrid learning platforms for nearly a year on the children and families in our community. Their stories were from the heart, entirely lacking in intent to intimidate or harass. Individual parents brought you personal stories in an endeavor to shed light on the real, albeit unintended consequences of removing children from their schools.

We understand that you have taken meaningful measures to protect the physical health of the members of the Cary 26 community. You have worked together to clean, separate, and provide as high quality of education as can be provided remotely, utilizing various technologies. Your creativity and skill does not go unnoticed. Nevertheless, children in this district and others are suffering from depression, loneliness, and anxiety directly tied to the lack of meaningful interaction with other children and adults. Families are suffering economically in the scramble to find affordable childcare or tutoring to make up for the loss of daytime care that over decades our society has built into the typical school-day system. Statistics are beginning to flow in documenting increases in depression and even self-harm. Some children are doing fine, and some may even excel in the new learning format presented this year. Others, especially those with special needs, English language learners, low income children, and even many children who otherwise would not be considered to be anything other than typical, are suffering. Our education system, and especially our Cary schools, are known for excellence in education and for reaching all of our children. We ask that you look to the children who are struggling by bringing them back to school as the risks of keeping children home is rising above the risks of having them in the classroom.

We understand the necessity of moving forward with care. We urge you to immediately review and consider what strategies you can implement protect children and adults in opening the schools. We have worked independently and collaboratively to suggest the following specific strategies to consider:

  • Frequent Covid testing for all of the in-person school communities
  • Reducing the mandated spacing for children in classrooms to three feet
  • Utilizing alternative spaces
  • Utilizing alternative school-day schedules
  • Increasing reliance on parents for transportation if necessary to accommodate alternative schedules

We urge you to move expeditiously but we do not expect you to move alone. We offer our help. We are parents and we are also members of the community at large with unique skill sets and we are willing to volunteer our time and skills wherever they can be used. We thank you for your continued commitment to our children and we offer you our support.

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