My name is Tessie Thomas and I am the President of the Montclair Council of PTAs (PTAC), an elected body that represents and supports the whole community.
It feels like déjà vu all over again. We are once again faced with an explosion of Covid cases in the community and all of the hotly debated issues that we had finally laid to rest have resurfaced. We once again find ourselves in a situation where we have to make tough tradeoffs:
- student mental health vs. protecting them from Covid,
- education gaps vs. teacher health and safety risks,
- childcare vs. parent/caregiver work requirements,
- immediate protection from vaccinations vs. concerns of their longterm impacts,
- responding to the ever-shifting Covid landscape vs. providing stability and a well-developed playbook
There are no easy answers.
In fact, I am going to go further and say that there is not “One” right answer that works for all. We are in a situation where we are being forced to make agonizing choices for our most vulnerable young ones. This can be and is exhausting. It also can be a source of a lot of frustration and anger. I want to sensitize us at not misdirecting this anger at each other and/or doing anything that deepens fault lines that can divide our community. It is easy to criticize and it is easy to blame – the fact is that we are dealing with a scourge that impacts us all. Given this situation, I think I speak for all families when I say that we are grateful to have choices for our students and the fact that there was not a presumptive mandate that assumed to know “what is good for each student”. The current situation does require more patience than normal from all while everyone deals with the additional burdens of the pandemic. We are grateful to everyone for their best efforts, but I want to express our huge gratitude to the teachers who carry a lion’s share of the additional burden imposed under the temporary hybrid arrangement.
I would like to read a summary statement that I provided to the Montclair Local. I think it captures it all –
As you can imagine, no one is happy with the current covid situation and pandemic fatigue is real. Although everyone would rather have their child(ren) in school than not, the drastic change in numbers in the last few days and the return from winter break make this a concern. Families are happy that they have a choice as it is unclear if there is one right answer. With each family having their own personal situation, we are grateful to have this flexibility. The district, the administration, the staff and the teachers are stepping up to accommodate this and it cannot be easy. Hybrid teaching is not a walk in the park and we are grateful to the teachers. We are fortunate to be in a community where collaboration, patience and grace remain intact.
We hope that the speedy rise in this wave of Covid is followed by as quick a drop. We hope that the milder outcomes hold. Let’s stay calm and keep going as all this may be moot in a few weeks. Once again – to the teachers – a big Thank you for being flexible and going above and beyond.