Empathy is a trait that serves us all, especially during a public health crisis.
All around the country, school boards are struggling with decisions on how to best educate our children through a public health crisis. Our family, my husband and I and our two kids, attended a recent school board meeting where it would be decided whether our school would continue in a hybrid model or return to full capacity classes.
When we arrived at the meeting, there were already about thirty parents there, some not wearing masks. My husband and I brought our kids because we both planned to speak. We hadn’t hired a babysitter since COVID hit last March and didn’t want to leave our kids home alone.
More parents arrived, pushing the room capacity to well above fifty. All the chairs, spaced six feet apart, were filled. So people started to line the walls or gather in the back. The air in the room was tense. At the last meeting where this decision was discussed parents argued angrily for full capacity and criticized teachers and administrators for taking “virtual vacations.” Even more parents packed this meeting hoping to convince the board that our kids needed to be in school full time. My husband and I were in the minority favoring a hybrid model that we believed was safer for all involved.
The President of the Board made an announcement asking everyone to abide by the school’s policy to wear a mask. Only a few refused. But after the meeting was called to order, the board needed to conduct some business in closed session. When they left the room, many of the parents removed their masks or lowered them to their chins to talk and laugh with neighbors. My 11-year-old daughter turned to me to ask, “Mommy, why aren’t they wearing their masks?”
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