From: Jennifer Anderson
Mother, scientist, human
I am a mother, a scientist, and an educator. I think the Winona Area Public Schools should reopen this fall with all K-12 students in the hybrid learning model as described for WAPS by Superintendent Freiheit at the School Board meeting last week.
My husband and I have two young boys, one in preschool and one who will join Jefferson School in kindergarten in a month. As of today, we have been home, isolated with our boys for 151 days in a row. My five-year-old is excited to go to kindergarten and I cannot tell you how much I want him to be there with his friends and teachers, for so many reasons that all of you caring for young children through these times know so well.
I am also a professor of geoscience at Winona State University, starting my 16th year. As an educator, I miss the classroom and I want to be back in the lab, working with my students. Yet I have moved all of my courses online to help protect my students, my family, and my community.
Lastly, I am a scientist and my life revolves around understanding the natural world. Since January, I have followed the news about COVID, spoken to colleagues in Europe and across our country, and followed the data and studies by medical experts. I tell you all of this so that you understand how torn I am between my belief in education, my love for my children, and my knowledge of what this invisible virus can and will do to human beings.
Winona is a college town and our major universities will be welcoming thousands of students back to start classes on August 24. These higher education institutions have been planning and preparing for months and are dedicated to providing a safe environment for their students. However, we need to recognize the possibility that our county’s bi-weekly COVID case rate will increase, at least a small amount, when these students return to Winona. It is possible that by September 8, the first day of school at WAPS, our bi-weekly case rate will be high enough to require WAPS to start all students in the hybrid model anyway.
Why not decide now to start with all of our K-12 students in hybrid classes? Over the next month, WAPS teachers and staff can focus on developing successful hybrid plans and classes. Students who will need additional support to be successful in hybrid or distance learning can be identified. Students will meet some of their classmates and their teachers, creating buy-in for whatever happens next. If, by October, the case rate has remained steady or dropped, WAPS can bring all the elementary grades back to in-person learning. If the case rate has increased, we are already in hybrid learning and have provided additional protection to our K-12 students, families, and staff for that first month.
Perhaps we start out overly cautious, but is there such a thing as “too cautious” when we talk about our children and our neighbors?