Katie Newcomb of Oconomowoc, center, drops off her children, Wyatt age 11, left, and Dillon, 12, right, at Silver Lake Intermediate School. (Photo: Michael Sears / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Not optimistic enough to be cautiously optimistic.
That’s how Oconomowoc mom Katie Newcomb described her feelings after her sons’ first week of hybrid in-person/virtual school during the pandemic.
My feelings exactly following my own daughters’ first week of in-person school.
Last week I was anxious and uncertain. I still am. But, after seeing how seriously the schools are taking the pandemic, I feel some relief. There are stringent face mask requirements. There’s social distancing between desks. There are rearranged times and locations for lunch to reduce crowding.
Newcomb is also pleased with how seriously her sons’ school is taking the pandemic. She’s hopeful that things will go well because of the thoughtful and constant communication she’s received from the school.
“There are videos and tutorials and FAQs to tell us their policies. They’re outlining everything they’re doing to keep our kids safe,” said Newcomb. “They’re sharing so much information that sometimes I’m up until 3 a.m. reading emails, but that’s fine because I feel so much more comfortable having all that information.”
In a normal year, Newcomb would probably say she’s cautiously optimistic. In fact, she did use those words at first. Then she stopped herself.
“Well, maybe I’m not exactly optimistic yet. But I am hopeful that I’ll get to optimism at some point.”
Why the lack of optimism? Because it’s 2020 — and we’ve learned how quickly everything can go south.
The kids know that too — which is why Newcomb’s conversations with her middle-school sons strike a balance between hopefulness and caution. She wants them to be cautious enough to stay safe — without feeling overly anxious.
“We talk a lot about controlling what they’re able to control during their day and trying not to be too anxious about the rest,” said Newcomb. We’re utilizing information from the school and from the CDC and I’m trying to answer all their questions.”
Newcomb is also keeping some of her own questions about her sons’ school days to herself.
“I want to know everything about their days and how they’re staying safe, but I also don’t want to stress them out or give them a worry they didn’t even think of,” said Newcomb. “So it’s a learning process for me to ask some questions and avoid others.”
Newcomb is more involved in the daily schooling minutiae during her sons’ virtual school days — something she’s able to do because she can work from home one day a week. Her sons’ father is working with them the other one to two virtual days each week.
So far, because of the school’s preparation, that’s going more smoothly for the family than it was in spring.
“In spring I stayed home with the boys for two months. Their dad’s business was deemed essential, so we decided that the boys would stay with me for the rest of the school year,” said Newcomb. “It was like I was a single mom on steroids, trying to get my work done and helping both of them with school, and on top of that they missed their dad.”
A week into the new school year, Newcomb is hopeful things will continue to go smoothly. So are her kids.
So are my kids. When they got home the first few days, they were full of stories of safety precautions — the rules about mask-wearing, the assigned seating at lunch, the people in their cohorts.
By the third day, they were just telling me normal school day stories about forgotten school supplies, upcoming tests and teachers’ new babies.
I’m still hungry for information, but I’m trying to learn from Newcomb — to avoid bombarding them with questions about how crowded the halls are, how much they wash their hands during the day and if everyone’s keeping on their face masks.
We’re all trying to remain hopeful that everything will be fine. But this is 2020. So we’re not quite optimistic.
How is your child’s school year going during the pandemic? If you’d like to share, please contact me at [email protected].
More: Milwaukee parents, how do you feel as your kids start school during the pandemic? This dad feels uncertain.
Contact Amy Schwabe at (262) 875-9488 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @WisFamilyJS, Instagram at @wisfamilyjs or Facebook at WisconsinFamily.
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