My prayers go out to kids and parents and teachers and school administrators this week especially, as the school year began on Tuesday, virtual learning at least for now here in Madison, WI. It is no doubt difficult and disappointing that there couldn’t be school in-person safely right now. In fact, my children’s message this past Sunday was an apology to the children that we adults in general, and our leaders especially, couldn’t do enough over the last five+ months that we could make it possible for them to safely come together at their school buildings to learn and socialize. Like with churches, I don’t say that schools are closed, only school buildings are closed – teaching and learning go on, just in a different way than before.
Since the end of May I’ve been working in my church office (because we have few staff and can easily practice safety measures), and the usual route from my home to the church each morning takes me past an elementary school (Frank Allis Elementary School). In usual times, in addition to children arriving by bus, there are some kids being dropped off by their parents on either side of the street in front of the school, so they have a school crossing guard posted at the crosswalk to help them safely across the street. If one drives by at the “right” time, one gets stopped for a minute or two for young people with or without parents to cross. In the past I’ve been stopped like this several times a week. I miss it! I miss seeing the kids sprinting or skipping across the street, happily greeting the teachers who are outside to make sure they find their way in good order into the building, the friendly waves to the parents, the friendly chitchat between the kids and the crossing guard when they are asked to wait a few seconds before being allowed to cross the busy street. They were scenes that brought back memories, happy memories of my own school days. They were little scenes of joy (and hope) that brightened up the start of my day.
Yesterday and today I drove passed that school and there was no crossing guard and no kids excited to be going to school…at least for now. I know we need to do this, to keep kids and teachers and crossing guards safe, and to keep parents and grandparents and others safe. And I know that we will return to bright autumn and winter and spring days with kids once again excitedly entering school buildings to begin a new day. I have that hope. And in the meantime, I have memories of other first weeks of school, to remind me of why I wear a mask and practice safe distancing and help lead my congregation to do likewise, for the sake of our whole community.