It’s back to school week for our girls … sort of

Nayvie, Parlie, Emerie

Our kindergartener plopped a new outfit onto the couch next to me.

Unicorn T-shirt with pastel-blue skirt. White shoes, pink laces.

Nayvie, 5, had waited weeks to hit the back-to-school sales with my wife, Nicki. She spent nearly an hour in her room Tuesday choosing what to wear for her first day of school later this week.

She gushed over the unicorn’s pink mane. I praised her choice but wondered how we’d find a face mask to match it.

She hates masks.

Face coverings are just one factor making this fall feel less like back-to-school season and more like a foray into the unknown. Unlike students throughout much of the Treasure Valley, our three daughters can at least return to their elementary school in person this week.

Sort of.

Uncertainty over the start of the school year prompted leaders in our district to implement a “soft” reopening for two weeks beginning Monday. The girls will be back in school just three days during that time, with various health precautions in place.

Like many of you, we’ve wrestled with what an in-person return to school will look like for our family. Time will tell what large-scale school re-openings will mean for the coronavirus. I’ve worried that our kids could bring it home to Nicki, who has asthma and is expecting a baby in December.

We have online options, but our hope in effective remote learning for youngsters is slim — especially for those learning to read.

  • Nayvie is sounding out letters and seeing words for the first time.
  • Our third grader, Parlie, is transitioning from learning to read to reading to learn.
  • Our first grader, Emerie, is somewhere in between the two.

And uncertainty still swirls around the coming months. What happens if there’s an outbreak in the district? Nicki and I have jobs, and finding time to spearhead learning was a struggle last spring.

And we at least have a home computer — and a home. My EdNews colleagues and I are working to tell the stories of families and students on the fringes in the coming weeks. How does a homeless student learn remotely? How do parents balance their jobs and life while playing teacher in the evenings? How are teachers adjusting to instructing kids through a computer screen?

And life as we know it doesn’t end during a pandemic. Last month, I made the award-winning decision to sell our home at the outset of the most uncertain school year of our lives.

Parlie gave me the death glare when she learned she may be at a new school by October.

Then there’s the baby. While Nicki shops for a crib, I’m scrolling local markets for homes suitable for six humans and two dogs.

We’ll be happy with a healthy new one, regardless of the gender. Still, I’ve been calling it Little Buckaroo around the house. “How’s Little Buckaroo today?” I asked Nicki recently, while patting her belly.

She gave me the death glare.

Your situations may be more daunting. How are you adjusting? Has the uncertainty impacted your job or other major facets of life? How do you cope? I’d love to hear your stories at [email protected]

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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