2020 | Opinion

Opinion: Virtual school must suffice until pandemic is under control

Precautions include vitamin C, social distance, masks, mostly staying home

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Every day, my kids wake up for school around 7:30 a.m. Like most kids, they wake up sleepy-eyed and fight over who will take a shower first. They quickly get dressed and are downstairs by 8:30 a.m. for breakfast with their dad.

It’s a busy morning as they get ready for “Zoom school” at home. In fact, all of us are on Zoom at home for work or school.

My son Khalil, the youngest of my three children, tries to focus on his teacher and stay engaged. It’s not easy, but he is learning and enjoying school.

He told me one day, “Mommy, I like school online, so I can stay safe. I don’t want to get sick from corona.”

My son’s words make me want to cry, but I must remain strong for my kids. Thank God I am at home with him every day to ensure he is safe.

We take our vitamin C, social distance, wear our masks and mostly stay home. This is how we survive without getting sick. I would like to keep it this way. 

Like many kids across America, my kids overhear devastating coronavirus news while trying to distract themselves playing video games.

They are worried about the rising number of COVID-19 cases. The numbers aren’t decreasing drastically in Maryland or nationwide.

They are worried about their friends and yearn for play dates, but thankfully have formed friendships with a small group of kids in the neighborhood who are “corona free,” as they put it.

Since the summer, they have played outside together, trying to enjoy the childhood snatched away when the pandemic hit America hard in March. As a parent, I am glad my kids found a balance between staying at home and finding time to play and feel “normal.”

It’s disturbing to see the country rush to reopen schools because of political pressure.

Where in the country have we seen a successful return to school without a spike or cluster in cases? New York City tried and failed, and had to reclose some schools. Texas had spikes in cases in rural areas after reopening schools.

What makes Montgomery County more prepared to control outbreaks, sanitize schools and protect teachers from the virus? What will MCPS do differently than other major school districts to protect our kids?

It will be a waste of time and money. Until our nation comes together and has a unified national response to the pandemic, there is nothing we can do.

Why put a child through the emotional stress of worrying about catching the virus from a classmate? Or see their new teacher slowly fall ill to the disease, just for the sake of “education”?

Emotionally, everybody has dealt with this pandemic differently. Some kids might suffer from anxiety while worrying about sanitizing their hands, making sure their mask is on properly or trying not to touch classmates. Just keep our kids home. 

Some might argue that my family is a two-parent-income house in a middle-class neighborhood and can afford to make this decision.

However, as parents, we have to make sacrifices for our children and protect them.

When we send them to school just because we are tired of being at home with them or need a babysitter, we are selfish, as they didn’t ask to be here in the first place. We should come together with trusted, healthy neighbors, friends and family members who we can depend on to watch our kids if we must leave the house to go to work.

That’s how our great-grandparents survived the 1918 Spanish flu. We can do the same.

Yes, I am judging parents for pressuring MCPS to rescind its decision because they want to go back to work. For me, sending my children to school during a pandemic is a life-or-death decision.

Like everyone else, I want my kids to go back to catching the bus to school. I want my daughter to play soccer again. I want to attend school events and chat with other parents about our kids.

But we can’t now. We have to be OK with a virtual world until we get control of the pandemic.

I strongly suggest that parents reconsider their financial options because we are in survival mode. This is not the time to play with the lives of our children just because we need a paycheck and the kids need to go to school. We can’t rush back to “normal lives.”

America quickly reopened the economy in May and we see where we are now, still dealing with the pandemic in October. Haven’t we learned?

I asked my ninth-grade daughter if she would go back to school if she had to wear a mask all day and social distance. She retorted, “Mom, how is it even possible to wear a mask all day? How will I make friends with a mask, learn in portable classrooms and be comfortable?”

Along with other stresses, now teachers have to fuss at students for not wearing a mask or argue with parents about not complying with COVID-19 safety measures.

If kids get sick at school, will the district be prepared for lawsuits, protests, teachers calling in sick, etc.? Do we have enough nurses and psychologists and substitute teachers to handle this crisis?

Even during normal days, schools struggle to provide medical and mental health resources. How will we manage during a pandemic? 

Honestly, Montgomery County Public Schools and parents who wish to send children to school during a pandemic are not being realistic. We have to face the truth and accept where we are as a nation.

What are our values? What are our priorities?

Virtual “Zoom school” is not perfect, but it is temporary and our kids will thank us for protecting them during the deadliest American tragedy in modern times. Let’s stay home and keep our kids safe because they are our future.

 Alexanderia Haidara lives in Gaithersburg.


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