Editor’s Note: Two Charlotte Valley Central School parents provided this commentary on the reopening of the school.
By ELIZABETH HITT & SARA LOTTERMAN
Over the last several months, it feels like we have watched the world fall apart. We have felt
scared for our country, for the world, for our families and friends, but most of all we feel scared for our children. Most recently we were shaken by the horrifying and far too-close-to-home COVID-19 outbreak at SUNY Oneonta.
COVID-19 has been standing at our doorstep and we have done our best as a community and parents to take the precautions to keep this disease out of our homes.
We fear that work may be undone.
The Charlotte Valley school district recently announced that it was ending the option for
all-remote instruction. In a Sept. 21 letter to families, Superintendent James Harter also said students with medical exemptions must renew their specific medical documentation every five weeks in order to continue learning remotely.
While we have been overwhelmed by the current state of our world, it has been a true blessing that our children have had the flexibility to safely connect and learn through remote learning. We continue to make decisions each and every day with the well-being and safety of our children as a top priority.
But now we are being given no choice but to send our children into a congregate setting in the middle of a deadly, global pandemic. While the superintendent is taking into account medical exemptions for students, he is not addressing pre-existing conditions and vulnerable positions that parents and other family members may find themselves in at home.
For example, while Sara was able to obtain a medical exemption for one of her children, the
district has rebuffed her attempts to keep her other two children on a remote learning schedule because of worry over what they may bring home to their sibling from school.
Thus far, they have continued with remote learning anyway — regardless of consequence — because Sara feels there is no better choice for the health and safety of her family.
In Elizabeth’s case, while her daughter may not have an underlying medical condition, she
continues to worry that the proper precautions are actually being taken to make school buildings a safe place for every student.
On top of that, not only does she care for toddlers at home, her mother recently was diagnosed with cancer and she will now need to act as caregiver during her illness. Like Sara, Elizabeth worries about what could happen if the virus spreads in school and
makes its way into their home, which could then spread to her high-risk mom.
Putting parents in that position isn’t fair. They should be able to make the decision for their
children and their family on whether or not to continue all-remote learning during this crisis. By taking the option away, the school district is ignoring our real concerns about the health and safety of our children.
Not only does mandating all in-person learning go against the better judgment of many
parents, it is also likely to create classrooms where teachers and students cannot maintain the 6-foot distance mandated by the CDC in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Overloading these schools with students is a risk to our entire community.
We understand that having the option to learn in-person is absolutely vital to the livelihoods of many of our families. That does not mean that it should be the only option. We want nothing more than to have our children back in school and to bring back some normalcy but – when it is safe to do so.
The school board must reverse the superintendent’s decision to bar all-remote instruction for the vast majority of students. Teachers, parents and kids are scared. Without the option to do all-remote learning, there could be deadly consequences.
Hitt and Lotterman are Charlotte Valley Central School District parents.