Editorial: Finding A Balance

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In abnormal times, it’s understandable to long for the normal. But it’s probably more sensible to recognize the immediate challenges and accept that they will take you into uncharted waters.

Every school district — and, as we all know, there are a lot of them on the South Fork — is sailing forward without a map toward September. It’s going to soon be time to decide what the 2020-21 school year will look like, at least to start with.

There is going to be a passionate push for a rapid return to normalcy. But students, parents, teachers and administrators all have to agree: We are still a fair distance from normal times. We need a strategy to get through a crisis that’s still in effect. We have to be realistic.

The safety of students and teachers must be the paramount consideration — nothing else comes close. But it’s also true that there is an economic aspect to reopening schools, and even a quality of life discussion. Distance learning is safe, but it’s also complicated; keeping kids home is best, but modern life requires parents to be out of the house. Finding a balance is the task at hand.

Does it mean some combination of classroom work — with social distancing and masks — and a reduced schedule, bolstered by at-home virtual classes? Will it mean changing the nature of the school day, moving teachers instead of students? And what happens when the landscape changes, for the better or worse?

It’s six weeks, give or take, to figure it all out. As the process begins, maybe it’s appropriate for everyone to stop, take a deep breath, and agree that none of this will be “normal.”

It can be liberating. Imagine someone proposing a massive overhaul of the education system, rethinking all of the basic ideas: school days, classroom space, instructional methods. It would be a decade of debate before any action was taken.

We don’t have that luxury these days. So … let’s try some things. Some are bound to fail. Some might be surprisingly effective, innovative. The crucible of crisis can be used for creativity, if everyone lets go of the idea of “normal” and focuses instead on what’s best right now, for the kids and their families, and for educators, in difficult, uncharted times.

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