Tomorrow is the first day of school...kind of.
The past few weeks have not been easy...well at least not for me.
With the new COVID reality we live in, school will be very different. In fact, I did not know until a few days ago who my kids teachers are, as well as the bus schedule.
This usually happens in late July/early August for new middle schoolers. My 5th grader normally would've found out his teacher on the last day of school when he brought home his report card.
What looked like an everyone back to school plan in late July, changed to a hybrid plan early in August, causing a reshuffling of classes, buses, everything.
On Mondays, the entire school system will be home, learning online.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays students with last names starting with A -L will be in school; M - Z will "see" their classmates online. Thursdays and Fridays they switch.
We also had the option to stay home 100%.
They hope to slowly bring back the kids after a couple of weeks (starting with K-2). Who knows if this will happen or not, but I am hoping.
One thing I do know, my kids want to go back. I want them to go back.
I do not envy the administrators of school districts at all. There is no right decision. And no matter what decision you make, it's the wrong one for someone.
But with a kid on the autism spectrum, this upheaval is not welcome.
Now, J is fortunately pretty high functioning. He is very communicative and is fairly mainstream. He also has ADHD, which means he needs to be on medication so he can keep his emotions in check. He succeeded in elementary school due to early intervention, a very strong support staff, and awesome teachers that worked with him through the tough times.
One of the paras nicknamed him, "The Mayor," because he knew everyone, helped younger kids slow down in the halls, or directed them to the right place. He owned the place.
I heard over and over again how much the elementary school staff was going to miss him this school year. He'd give hugs; he'd tell them they were doing a great job; he'd give them drawings of trains. He was just as supportive of them, as they were of him.
So from big fish in a little pond, to little fish in a big pond--we are in for a transition! But what should be a time of preparation, being able to visit the school ahead of time, meeting his teachers, figuring out where his classes are, checking out his locker, meeting the support staff, etc., we have done none of that.
Fortunately, we did get to meet the school nurses when we dropped off his medication. We were not allowed in the building, so we talked through our masks, 6 feet apart outside. I found out who his special ed teacher/resource officer will be, and we have communicated through email.
He hasn't set foot in the school. They did not have the typical walk through in the spring that they normally would for these new 7th graders. In fact, when the Middle School principal came to the elementary school to meet and greet in January, J was home with the flu.
He has missed out on everything that helps him regulate his emotions and anxiety. He likes to know what is happening, where things are. What the schedule is. So do I.
I can't help him with any of that, because I don't have all answers. Luckily, in the many, many emails I have received, I have shown him the map of the school, where he is going to go, who his teachers will be, and most importantly, who his special ed. teacher will be.
Tomorrow has been set aside as an orientation day for new students to the district, and incoming Kindergarteners, 7th graders, and 9th graders (new school buildings!). I am hoping that all of our questions will be answered then, and the anxiety will begin to fade. I won't be able to attend with him, but he's cool with that--now. I've been told, he'll get his schedule, receive his Chromebook, and take a tour of the newly renovated school (a bonus of being shut down for 6 months).
This whole first week of school will be 1/2 days, which may be a good thing as we ease back into this new way of school, for hopefully only a few weeks.
He is so excited, even with the new restrictions and not being able to see everything ahead of time. I am very proud of him for keeping it together--better than me.
One thing I learned from my special ed teacher Aunt (yes, the Aunt that I lived with in Colorado--see the Wormholes part 2 post), is that we are all on The Spectrum. That's why its called that--a spectrum. We are all on it, just at different places. That makes perfect sense, even more so as I lived through the uncertainty of the past month.
I'm a little stressed.
My neurotypical 5th grader, B, just rolls with it all. He's a little bummed out that he won't get to see his best friends in person, because their last names are at the beginning of the alphabet, and we are toward the end. They also received the other 5th grade teacher, so they won't even see each other virtually in school.
His best friend texted, that this year doesn't count, so their streak of being in the same class since day care (!) isn't broken.
B texted back, that they would see each other on the bus when they go back full time.
I love these kids!
Seriously, B told me, he is just happy to be back in school, even if it is just for 2 days.
I don't know the right answer for any of this. But I do know that my boys need school. They need the social atmosphere, even if it is a 6 foot intervals and with masks. They need their teachers--they miss them. They need the support staff--the nurses, the cafeteria ladies, the paras and librarians, the custodians and school resource officers. This is part of the family.
I could keep the boys home. Remember, I actually went to school for a while for teaching, but I would be horrible. And I don't have the resources that J needs to further not only his education but his social skills. Nor do I want to be their teacher. I just want to be mom.
I'm choosing to send the boys back not because I want them to get sick, or give someone else an illness. Shoot, I'm sure that happened before COVID (I can remember a few weeks of all of us having the flu a few years back)--this virus is just a little more serious.
They have practiced wearing their masks. They wash their hands often--they are used to it due to the food allergies in the house. They understand there is no hugging of friends or teachers.
I'm sending them back, because after having witnessed this spring: their irritation with the computers, the lack of interacting with the peers and teachers, and (honestly) their depression, they need to be in the environment they count on for support outside the family.
Because, lets face it...school is part of this family. And that is something we all need right now. And from what I understand in talking/emailing with teachers and paras, they need the kids right now too.
We need to be together.
Happy first day of school!