As officials at the state and local level look toward a soft reopening of some public places, health officials are warning of a new normal.
“While we work together to determine the next steps, one thing we know is that reopening will not be a return to life as we knew it before COVID-19,” Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci cautioned last week. “We will need to proceed cautiously into a new normal with continued masking, social distancing and hand hygiene habits in place to protect ourselves and each other.”
It’s not the news any of us wanted.
It is, though, the underlying message that has been shared repeatedly by the health care community since the pandemic ratcheted up throughout the U.S.
The School District of Lee County is among the entities facing the greatest challenges with our hopefully short new normal.
As have districts throughout the state, local educators executed a sharp pivot and converted classroom learning to computer sessions complete with instruction from each child’s teachers.
Not only that, the district figured out a way to keep those kids fed, both with breakfast and lunch, via a daily Grab & Go meal pickup program.
Still, the changes are substantial for the youngest among us, and for their families.
Traditional learning — classroom time with peers and teachers — is among the collateral damage of the health crisis.
Gone or modified, at least for now, are the popular traditions of which memories are made.
VPK ceremonies with little caps and gowns.
Proms, parties and packed-to-the-rafters high school graduations full of family and friends.
Indeed all of the scrapbook-worthy end-of-year milestones in between.
The new normal is a hastily fashioned home-school hybrid that is reliant on the abilities of the individual student and parents thrust into the role of an education paraprofessional trying to figure out the new math while also either worrying about how to pay the bills or hold down a job without supporting childcare.
It’s a lot to process.
It’s a lot to take in.
And it’s upheaval enough.
That’s why we were glad to see the school district take a step back from its plans to wholly reconstruct high school classroom schedules next year by replacing its alternating-day “block scheduling” with a slightly longer seven-period day.
We agree with the majority of school board members who said there’s still too much uncertainty about what the summer, and the new school year, might bring.
We would not be too surprised with some order of summer school coming down the pike.
There are certainly going to be children who will need help to be where they need to be academically.
Perhaps many children.
There already is talk of some combination of distance learning and social distancing for classrooms next year, if the pandemic does not abate as expected.
A complete overhaul of the high school day — even if beneficial as the school district’s administration maintains — is unfortunately one big bite too many.
We thank the students, yes students, who pointed this out.
We thank the school board members who listened.
And we thank the school district adminstration, which regrouped again, setting a series of informational sessions for next year, when, hopefully, we’ll be much closer to normalcy than we are right now.