Kyle Troutman: Going into the unknown

Saturday, August 15, 2020

In 10 days, if they have not already, local schools will be thrust into an experiment of epic proportions.

Thousands of students in the bi-county area will enter the doors of their places of learning they vacated five months ago, and in more uncertain circumstances since when they left.

When schools went into Marchís wellness break, it was two weeks before the first case of COVID-19 (coronavirus) was documented in Barry County, and a month-and-a-half before Lawrence Countyís. As of Wednesday, Barry County has 256 total cases, with 24 active, and Lawrence County has 237, with 33 active.

Itís a bit mind-boggling to think how much precaution was taken in the early stages of the pandemic versus how it is being handled today. Even though we know much more about the virus, especially when it comes to symptoms and how it spreads, the precariousness of returning to school now, compared to in March when the advice was ďstay home,Ē can be a bit daunting.

As the pandemic progresses, one thing has become clear ó we canít stay shut down forever.

Children still have to learn, and schools are doing their best to navigate how to provide their services safely.

As we return to school, my concern is more with teachers than anyone else. None of them are getting COVID pay raises, and in fact, their workloads have grown. Normally, teachers are charged with educating children and being role models other than parents.

Now, teachers will be tasked with keeping students socially distanced, teaching at times while wearing a mask, bathing themselves in hand sanitizer, bathing the students in hand sanitizer, recognizing possible COVID symptoms in the classroom and maintaining a normal learning environment in a totally abnormal situation.

On top of that, with the options for seated or virtual learning, they will have to alter lesson plans and find a way to reach virtual students as equally as they reach seated ones. And, should things go south, they will have to teach completely virtually, which I doubt any had ever seriously thought about doing this time a year ago.

Teachers will be doing all this while also putting themselves at risk, whether they want to or not. Social media has been rife with people saying teachers need to ďdo their jobsĒ and that ďthis is what they signed up for.Ē

Those comments are in response to teachers who feel uneasy about returning to the classroom and possibly contracting COVID themselves.

Itís a tough ask for teachers to put themselves at such risk, and I feel confident in saying no teacher ever signed onto the job thinking they would be teaching in a pandemic.

All of this brings me to the point ó letís support teachers.

Letís have some extra empathy and understanding this fall as we all navigate the whitewater.

Letís do all we can to make teachersí lives easier and make their jobs less overwhelming than they can be during normal times.

Letís ask what they need and help them get it: extra supplies, extra PPE, extra hand sanitizer, extra anything.

Nearly everyone I know can name at least one teacher from their formative years thatís had an impact on their life. Letís give teachers this fall the confidence and support to do that for our children.

Certain things this school year are going to be a pain. Letís rise above the inconvenience and disruption and help schools make this a year to remember for things other than having to take COVID precautions.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of The Monett Times since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-235-3135 or editor@monett-times.com.

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