Parent First, Public Official Second

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The Anne Arundel County Public Schools system educates 84,000 future leaders, entrepreneurs, thinkers and problem solvers. We are home to dedicated teachers and staff who lift up every child to meet their full potential. As many parents may know, you learn that all your kids are different — not just in personalities, but also in their learning styles. Understanding these differences has helped me, as a parent, make the best decision about choosing what kind of school setting is best for my kids.

County leadership and the teachers union are obstacles to parents being able to have that option. The teachers union is wielding their power unchecked and stifling the growth of our students. They are keeping our dedicated teachers out of their vitally important positions. For the record, there is no doubt that teachers hold one of the most challenging jobs out there. Constituents are not satisfied with politics affecting their children and how they earn an education.

Unfortunately, the reality of not reopening schools is considered political because the persona is political. On many levels, we are being disproportionately affected by county leadership in their idea of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Anne Arundel private schools have demonstrated their ability to effectively host in-person classes, so why is it that Anne Arundel public schools cannot?

As per the two requirements expected of nonpublic schools set by the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, non-public schools must submit a safety plan for approval prior to reopening in-person and contact the health department if a student or teacher is positive. If Anne Arundel County Public Schools cannot meet this expectation, are they then demonstrating ineffective leadership incapable of proposing strategic planning?

We have invested to ensure that special needs learners are offered services that allow them the same opportunities in life as their peers who learn differently. Families who are low-income are supported to ensure that regardless of a family’s economic status, their children have the same opportunity for success as those with higher incomes and more resources. What we are silently and complicitly witnessing is the deteriorations of all those necessary efforts. The taxpayers have spent their hard-earned money to offer top-notch education opportunities for children, regardless of who they are.

Virtual learning has shown to be less valuable compared to in-person class settings. As stated by the Centers for Disease Control:

“The many benefits of in-person schooling should be weighed against the risks posed by COVID-19 spread. Of key significance, in-person learning is in the best interest of students, when compared to virtual learning. Application and adherence to mitigation measures provided in this document and similar to those implemented at essential workplaces can help schools reopen and stay open safely for in-person learning.”

The fact that children are not back in school is exacerbating the education gap we have worked hard to minimize. Families with special needs learners who can afford to have private educators come into their homes and meet their needs are doing so. Families without those financial abilities are watching their children’s learning opportunities go downhill.

Every child deserves the same opportunity, and we as a community have always fought for exactly that. A family who is able to send their children into the private sector are doing so, and families who can economically support their family on one income are homeschooling their children. If virtual learning is effective for your child, that’s great. For the kids who struggle learning online and do not have the resources or home environment to effectively participate in class, there should be an option for them also. On that note, the CDC has recognized, “At the same time, the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional and behavioral health, economic well-being and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant.” We are missing vital opportunities to support those who cannot do so. We have spent countless dollars, energy, thought and heart into investing in all children, too much to give up on them now!

We need to speak loudly and clearly to the county executive and the health officer that a balance must be met. Let’s be a part of the solution and not the problem: safely reopen our schools, even if a hybrid system is in place. We, as parents, need realistic options that allow our kids to thrive academically while being able to pay our bills. County leadership has imposed challenges on families, individuals and businesses. We cannot just address a virus and then forget about depression, special needs learners, lower-income families and every single child who deserves to have their future be as bright as we possibly can, within the means that we have.

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