It’s always hard getting back into the real world after a vacation. Especially a vacation where you don’t read the news, don’t watch TV, and truly disconnect. Even harder when you return to the real world we’re living in now.
We drove through rain to our vacation, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Henri followed us up the coast and had us in a hotel for two days as it pummeled the coast. But then we had so many days of beautiful weather. An extra day in fact, as the owner of our rental house felt bad about the storm and let us stay an additional night. But that additional night, it stormed again. We took the first ferry off the island to head home; good thing because the second one was canceled because of the storm.
We drove home through rain (hello Ida), and as we drove, all the magic of the vacation seemed to wash away.
This was a fucking hard week. Fires on one coast, floods on the other. In the middle, rights are being stripped of women as they sleep, guns are made as accessible as candy bars, knock-down-drag-out fights are happening at school board meetings as hospitals turn away patients because beds are full of COVID deniers on ventilators. And that’s just the tip of the melting iceberg.
I came home from vacation to bags from online retailers where I found my kid dress-code-appropriate but still cute clothes for her to wear back to school. Her last school didn't have a dress code and last year she attended her first year of middle school in sweatsuits and slippers. She has never entered the building of her middle school. She wondered if they would be assigned lockers with COVID. She really wants a locker.
I came home from vacation to catch up on what was going on at her school. We saw her schedule and she was thrilled to see she had accelerated math with the same wonderful teacher she had last year, and Russian with the same teacher she had since elementary school. OMG Chris has all her classes, OMG Jordan has some of her classes, OMG Katie has none of her classes. Will I see Katie at lunch?
Come to find out yes, she would see Katie at lunch. The new principal’s letter informed us that while precautions have been made to keep kids socially distant most of the day, lunch would be standard, an indoor cafeteria teeming with tweens and young teens, some vaccinated and some not, masks off as they eat square pizza and tater tots, laugh, scream, and play fight.
We didn’t apply for the online option for school this year. Back when we had to make the decision, we thought it wasn’t needed. We vaccinated our 12-year-old as soon as she was eligible, we had been vaccinated, as had been our closest relatives. After a year of virtual school, we felt she needed the social interaction, and we wanted to keep the spaces (only 700 for the entire county of 6th-12th graders) for those with serious situations that prevented the students from entering a school building.
But since then, we are living in a different world with different variants of the virus and differing views on it from some of our neighbors, relatives, and likely students and staff at her school. And to think of sending our child into that every day and pretending it’s okay… we couldn’t do it.
The virtual option is full and closed. So, we are homeschooling.
My husband and I are products of this same school system. Both of his parents and my mom were teachers in this same school system; my mom taught for over three decades at the middle and high school levels. We received world-class educations at innovative schools with talented teachers and staff.
My daughter has had an equally stellar education. She went to an award-winning elementary school where she learned Russian and many of her teachers had advanced degrees. Her principal earned her PhD while my daughter attended, and I loved how the whole school celebrated her achievement. Her middle school teachers impressed me last year. Even being on Zoom, they were so skilled and caring and my daughter thrived and learned so much.
In Prince George’s County schools, being a white student is being the minority. My daughter has only had a handful of white teachers over the years, all her principals and administrators have been people of color, and most of them women of color.
Prince George’s County, Maryland is the second-largest school system in Maryland and the 20th largest in the country with over 130,000 enrolled students and 22,000 employees. The student population is 55% Black, 35% Hispanic, and less than 3% white. Over 66% of the student population receives free or reduced meals, 10% receives Special Education, and over 20% are English language learners. (source)
Our county has no protocol to keep lunch socially distant likely because they don’t have the tax dollars of the wealthier counties that surround us to buy tents and additional staff to watch small groups. Schools can have the best teachers, the most innovative administration, but if they don’t have money, they can’t accomplish much.
It’s not that Prince George’s County doesn’t care, or that they are being swayed by angry white people at board meetings with masks on their chins. I believe they’re doing the best they can but they just don’t have the resources. It’s yet another example of systemic racism and how people of color are seen as expendable.
I don’t want to homeschool because I have always been of the thought that by attending the schools, I am supporting the school system. Being involved in the school, joining the PTA, donating supplies and time, having my tax dollars go to them. The only way schools can improve is by the community around them.
But after a summer of metaphorically hiding my head in the sand while we went to beaches and cabins and other “safe” vacations, I can’t send my only child back into a dangerous environment. But I can still fight for that school and its students who don’t have the privilege to homeschool or find another option.
It’s hard to fight when you’re so exhausted by this world. When you don’t even know what to do, and you don’t really have the bandwidth to even do it.
And so, that is why there is no Friday Shop post today, or any content other than the recap of what I wore to Fire Island. Though, I did hide in my work and have a big fall fashion post coming up after Labor Day. Sometimes work can be a really great distraction from the world being on fire. Keep plugging along, meeting those deadlines, achieving those quotas while the earth and its inhabitants die. It's the American way.