I have yet to meet a parent this summer who isn’t stressed or worried about what to do about school this fall. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about preschool or college or the school years in between, we’re all concerned. We know that our children need to go back to school. We know that we need our children to go back to school so we can go back to work or care for the rest of our family. We also know that the COVID-19 epidemic is still raging, particularly in the Flathead Valley. We know that all of this is uncertain, tenuous, and, frankly, terrifying.
Parenting is nothing short of confronting uncertainties yet this crisis is unlike anything we’ve ever encountered. And school is a critical aspect of our children’s lives and now we wonder: is it safe? What will school look like this fall? How can schools safely reopen? How can public institutions that are frequently plagued by defunding and lack of support not only provide education and socialization for our kids but also employ the safety measures needed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus? And how are our teachers feeling about what could happen in their classroom?
Unfortunately, we are saddled with more questions than answers. It’s difficult to assess the risks, and even trickier when you’re trying to figure out how to provide childcare so you can go to work. I feel like I’m in a pressure cooker navigating these decisions, and my frustration mounts when I see that our children’s futures are hampered by narrow-mindedness and selfishness from individuals who don’t wear a mask in public or continue to throw parties or host large gatherings. An entire generation of children’s lives are at stake — not just one summer where you might not get to do exactly what you wanted or hoped to do. We need to take the long view and do what we can, right now, to ensure that we can control the disease’s rapid spread so our children can return to their classrooms.
As we enter the final weeks of summer and the school year is on the horizon, it is time to issue a rally cry: schools are the backbone of our society, our community, our culture, and our economy. Our focus should be doing everything imaginable to ensure that we can keep our children and our teachers safe.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.