Letter: BOE ready to face reopening challenges
To the Editor:
My wife and I are very blessed to have our mothers with us and we hope you cherish your elder family members also. One just turned 90 and the other is due to achieve this milestone in a few months. During a recent trip they commented recently on how they were born and remember the Great Depression, the years leading up to and through WWII when they lost many friends and neighbors, the Korean Conflict, again losing more of their generation, the Cuba Missile Crisis and then to Vietnam, loosing sons and daughters, several more economic downturns and then the Middle East wars, more losses but this time it was their grandchildren. They, as part of “The Greatest Generation,” made sacrifices during those trying times we will hopefully never have to deal with. They are, however, more devastated by the COVID-19 virus, which has isolated them from so many family, friends and programs they depended on. Their world is upside down and even with great telephone, email, FaceTime, Facebook, Zoom and other electronic ways to connect them to others, it just don’t cut it for them. I can agree that it is, as they said, “a world turned upside down.” As relatives we can make every effort to try and fill the voids created by the virus, but we are hard-pressed in doing so. There is no clear-cut solution for them, or anyone but to wait for a proven vaccine to free the world from the COVID-19 pandemic. I must hopefully ask that everyone and anyone who knows of a person who has been shut in or re-shut in by the pandemic to contact them whether they live next door, four blocks away or 3,000 miles away. If you do nothing, give them a shoulder to cry on and to rely on during these tough times.
I know growing up in Shelton we were sheltered by our parents, neighbors and a community that cared and it is very evident and great to see that it continues today in our city. I personally remember when a PB&J sandwich was the most popular lunch at school and asthma and allergies to not only food products, latex and even crayons were nonexistent. That having been said, I can’t tell you how many people have contacted me about “what will school look like in 2020 and beyond?” Fortunately, we have hardworking BoE members who are working on it. I am aware, but if you don’t know the Shelton BoE has 50 pages of information and directives from the state BoE to assist in developing a plan. The complications of opening all over the country are, to say the least, complicated if not impossible. We want to protect the students and staff while getting them back to the classroom. I note that I don’t think we give our students, younger and older, enough credit to be able to handle and cope with the opening of schools whether it is in late August or in January 2021. I think they are more resilient than we give them credit for. As adults we have to lead and bring saneness and clarity to our children by example in all parts of their formative years and beyond. At ESS in the ‘60s, we spent a week or two during the winter in a building without a working boiler. We happily, and with our teachers supporting us, wore our winter clothing, hat/scarfs/coats/boots, through the entire day. We went to get our lunches in the cafeteria and returned to our rooms to eat at our desks. A great class party each day and the milk never got warm. During the Cuban Missile Crisis any student who resided within 2 miles of a school with a parent at home were lined up by their address and we walked home without an escort of any kind. The missile guidance systems of that era were not very precise and a school looked like a factory and our closeness to Sikorsky Aircraft, AVCO and other Connecticut arms manufacturers made Shelton a vulnerable mistaken target. My sister and I lived on Meadow Street and were the last two to get home. We practiced this twice, I was very worried about my classmates who were huddled and hunkered down in the school hallway. Our students can be just as successful if we don’t coddle them, still support them and make it more about overcoming adversity than letting it overcome them.
So each plan to get the students back into the classroom has its good and not-so-good sides. In some Georgia communities, they are still going to have virtual classes for the opening of schools with the staff/educators working from their own classrooms where they have their whiteboards and classroom facilities to offer a more effective virtual program. This still does not provide the parents of many children a chance to return to work. Some programs call for alternating from school and virtual studies to be able to social distance. Another plan, this one is novel, called for parents to be given some of the funds we pay for our educational systems ($12,000 to $14,000/year) and let them connect with neighbors/friends to find an acceptable venue and hire a certified teacher for the 2020-21 year. It sounds like the “Little Old Red School House” of years gone by where several grades were taught in one room. I think Shelton had a green one in White Hills with a horse-drawn, open school wagon to ride to school in. Tech schools can dictate students only come to class for their shop classes and attend academic classes virtually. The concerns and worries for parents, educators, administrators and students, in any order you please, no matter what system/program we choose will certainly haunt us and we will second guess ourselves for years to come. Our goal should be to not let the students fall behind and to make certain students understand that just because they are home, the discipline and learning are still values we as adults hold paramount in their journey to adulthood.
The Shelton city trails are a great place to get out and enjoy fresh air, exercise, getting back to nature and enjoy a family outing close to home at no cost. Bring a picnic lunch if you really want to have a great experience. There are tables, benches and places to stop and view the lakes, woods and wildlife while you relax in a cool outdoor venue.
Please be well, wear a mask in public, social distance, wash your hands more than you ever have before and keep those who are most vulnerable safe. And God bless our Board of Education and president.
Anthony F. Simonetti
Alderman, 1st Ward