Last Thursday my son began his first day of the 2020-2021 school year with Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) – just like the other 50,000+ students they serve. It’s not a surprise that this year is different for all of us.
Along with all the other students and families, his first day was spent on screen with his class and teacher. Just like all parents – we worry about his ability to learn remotely, if we are doing our job as parents, and what the lasting impacts of this time might be. At the end of the day, my son felt pretty good about all of it. He loved his teacher and was happy to see his classmates again after a long summer with limited social connection with his peers.
Let’s be frank – at best this process is going to feel uncomfortable simply because it is so different. The entire U.S. education system was developed under a completely different paradigm than the post-coronavirus era that we find ourselves in now. A “normal” year was never going to be a realistic option.
Here is what gives me hope and confidence: the army of dedicated professionals and parents who are doing everything they can to ensure all students receive the very best education they can have this year.
Teachers are superheroes. If you don’t believe that, I challenge you to spend an entire day with a class of first grade kids, or junior high students, or graduating seniors. It is noble and important work and the education staff should be celebrated. We entrust our most valuable assets to them every day – our children and our family futures. We thank you for what you do!
Even in the face of their superhuman efforts, it is pragmatic to anticipate that we all will be presented with challenges this year.
It is a difficult time for all families, but particularly those that may have comparatively less access to resources like reliable internet access or quiet places to study. And then there are the differing views about how best to provide education in the presence of COVID-19. Some families with specific concerns about health risks don’t want students to return to the classroom in person. Still other families strongly prefer to begin in person education as soon as possible. Many students have special needs for their education and rightly have other concerns for their experience this year. The list of understandable reasons for anxieties goes on.
People can disagree strongly about how best to provide for all students in a normal year, let alone this one. It’s a healthy function of the PTA and Board of Trustees to help understand the concerns of parents and inform the strategic and tactical approaches RRISD implements. I suspect communication among all the necessary partners will feel like a difficult task this year, not because anyone is at fault but because the unpredictable environment we are in makes it so challenging to gather input, create plans, and communicate them effectively and timely. Leadership is trying to do all of this, but coronavirus is not concerned about community-wide communications plans.
In this season of uncertainty, we will need to support each other and solve our problems together. I know this community is up to the task if we can all offer each other some grace, understand that anxieties are justifiably high, and that solutions are likely to remain unclear for some time to come. Good people are working together as best as they can to find solutions and offer what clarity we can.
The past economic success of Round Rock, and our hopes for an equally bright future, are firmly based on the foundation of the strong education system we have here. Not only does it produce future business and community leaders, but it brings families to this city so their children can be educated here. It’s worth remembering the excellent foundation we have in times of uncertainty.
On behalf of our board and program investors, I want to extend a special welcome to all the students, teachers, families, staff, administrators, and school board members. Please take a moment to view this excellent “Welcome to the 2020-2021 School Year!” video produced by the Round Rock ISD Council of PTAs. Our community has the drive and resilience to make this year a powerful example of what we can accomplish working with each other. Best wishes and good luck to you all!