Bridget is back in school, but not in any way I imagined when our world imploded on March 13, 2020. Her summer program began this week. She was offered the opportunity to continue remotely or attend in-person sessions with the staff and classmates.
I did not even hesitate, get the child back to school!
Yes, we are living in scary times, our children will be the ones that will in 30 years say to their teen complaining about school: “You think this is bad, I survived remote learning”.
For Bridget, remote learning is a waste of her and her teachers/ESPs time. She made little to no progress, with the hope that she just “wouldn’t lose too much ground”. We know she is resilient, we also know that if she does not have frequent review of concepts she “forgets” skills we thought she had previously mastered.
This year the summer program is different than last year. We are getting a taste of the new normal and what school might look like for Bridget in the Fall.
She is riding in the van, not the bus.
She is not allowed to sit with her friend, instead occupying the bench by herself. (Which is absolutely ridiculous given the only student on the van with her is with her in the classroom).
She is wearing a mask, willingly. This surprised me. When we first began letting Bridget venture out of the house when Phase 2 began she refused, full out temper tantrum refused. Just like everything else, in her own time Bridget began wearing the mask. I know for safety, she has to wear it. But how will she learn to read expressions if they are masked?
She is no longer allowed to hug her friends or teachers. This one has been a struggle, as Bridget has never come across anyone that felt better after she gave them a hug.
She is no longer allowed to go to the playground every day, as they have to limit the number of students.
The program is only 2.5 hours, four days a week, she stays in the same room for the morning with only seeing 2 other classmates and her teacher/ESPs. They eat snack in the room, do all therapies (remotely) in the room and learn in the room.
There is no more play, there is no more independence. Half her IEP is out the window.
This summer there will be no interaction with typical peers. This concerns me, as I worry it will continue into the fall. The only reason I have continued to keep Bridget in public school was for the social interaction. I know Bridget will never be running a Fortune 500 company, but I do know she may one day work at one. I want her to be accepted by future. I know she will always be seen as different, but the more exposure of typical peers the more language and social skills she will have.
I am frustrated (as are all parents) that the Department of Education will not make any decisions. I believe this may be due to the ESY programs. That they are using this vulnerable population is actual the guinea pigs for the fall. To see if there is an uptick in COVID-19 cases, to see if they can keep students in a segregated classroom and limit their movements in the buildings. To see if they can wear masks (and then tell the typical peers they have no excuse not to wear one).
Since March we have been on the edge, waiting for school to return. This is just a baby step into our new normal.
I hope it includes her peers.