Staying Healthy in School-7/14/2020

I started working on Blogging Bingo on June 28, 2020 with my first entry- Self Care where I described how I had completed a milestone- completing Couch to 5K! My next entry was published on July 11, 2020 and shares some Summer Learning Opportunities for Teachers. All of the posts were related to my commitment this year to #oneword2020 CHALLENGE myself to take risks.

The idea of taking risks has been prevalent in my thoughts lately as educators and parents around the country have some heavy decisions to make. They need to weigh risks and determine what risks they are willing to take and which ones they will not when it comes to returning to school. In my June 24, 2020 post, I shared many of the questions that were swirling inside my head concerning my "request" for the upcoming year- virtual or in school with social distancing.

I want to be back at school with my colleagues and students in a "normal school" environment.

I love my job, where I get to help my colleagues and students learn how to use technology to amplify learning. But I also understand that no matter what model I choose, that is not what this fall will be like. Being in school with social distancing measures in place will not be "school as usual." Working virtually will not be "school as usual."

Not only does my 2020-2021 contract start tomorrow, July 15th, but that is also the day that I need to share what my preference is for this school year. Like most educators around the country, I have been noodling through this difficult decision for a while now. While listening to cries on the National News that we should go back to school like normal, I have also been watching as numbers of COVID-19 cases spike around our country. I have watched School Board meetings and Superintendent Town Halls, looking for more answers. I have scrolled through Facebook and Twitter posts, trying to find the right thing for me to do. I have even consulted with fellow tech coaches to see what they decided. But as everyone knows, there are no guarantees no matter what you choose.

Is It Worth The Risk?

In last week's blog post on July 7, 2020, I shared my journey to apply to be a Google Certified Innovator and how if I didn't apply, the answer would automatically be "no!" Who knows if I will be selected to join the first Virtual Innovator Academy, but I gave it my best shot. It was important to me and it was worth the risk.

If that was worth the risk, wasn't the health and safety of my family also worth the risk? As a School Based Technology Specialist for close to 1000 students in a face to face setting, I will be exposed to hundreds of students a day. As a tech coach, I can do my job virtually while supporting all of these students. If I don't apply or request to work virtually, the answer will, without a doubt, be "no." Teaching virtually is harder without a doubt and I will miss seeing my colleagues and my students face to face, but I need to try to make the best decision for myself and my family.

If I do request virtual, there is a chance that I will not get it- I understand that and if that is the case, I will need to make peace with going back to school and arm myself with as much PPE as possible.

The Tipping Point

Last Friday, during a virtual rally for PPE, a Prince William County teacher and parent shared her story about how her son got COVID-19 and how in less than a hour, the entire family was infected. My heart broke for her as she shared her family's story of how sick she, her two teenage boys, and her husband were while they had COVID-19 and how they all still have lingering effects.

Then, later that night, a parent of two teenage boys in our district shared his thoughts on their decision for their boys. In this post, he shares his thoughts on why he switched his children from a hybrid option to a virtual option. If you haven't read his post, you should, but even if you don't read it, consider this.

If children only die .0016 of the time from COVID-19, in my school system of 189,000 children, that means 302 children would die from COVID-19 exposure. Then, if you consider staff, even at that same rate (although adult mortality is higher), that would be over 20 staff members that would die.

Considering those numbers, I am not sure why we are even considering opening schools. Yes, students learn best face to face, but isn't keeping our children safe the most important thing.

Next Steps...

Not only am I an educator, but I am also a parent of a college freshman and a high school freshman.

My son will be going to West Virginia University this fall. We have been receiving weekly communications from the university where they have outlined a thorough plan. All students and staff will be tested, masks are mandatory and social distancing will be in place using larger rooms, hybrid classes and virtual classes. My son and I discussed the risks and looked at West Virginia's data which is much lower than the rest of the country. Yes, I am worried sending him, but I have faith that every precaution possible has been put in place.

My daughter will be attending a Fairfax County High School. She wants to select hybrid because of starting a new school. I think about her possible exposure and whether or not teens will truly wear masks and keep social distancing. I consider if I select hybrid for her, will that mean an educator like me, who is worried will be denied the opportunity to work virtually? I know that she will not be exposed to as many risks as I would face to face, but is that worth the risk? None of these decisions are easy, especially with less than a day left to decide.