I’m not comfortable having my kids back in school this fall.

I’m also not comfortable juggling more distance learning/remote working.

It feels like one of those dreadful “would you rather” games, where you have to decide between having seven fingers or seven toes.

The answer, of course, is neither!

Yet here we are, facing down some gut-wrenching decisions, knowing there’s no perfect solution that will guarantee everyone stays healthy AND successfully employed - not to mention sane. And yet, we can’t just stand still.

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It all became very real for me today as I listened in on one of Fargo Public School’s parent input sessions on school re-opening. They propose using an odometer scale, based on the risk level in the community, to determine how schools and students will operate. On the upside, it’s a plan that actually seems to make some sense and appears to be well-thought out.

Options range from a red risk level, which means we are at critical risk and everyone learns from home, to a blue level, which means everything is “normal” again and we go back to traditional in-person learning.

The reality is we’re likely to be at a low-risk green level, which means we’ll have traditional learning but with restrictions, or very possibly at yellow, which means moderate risk and has elementary students in a hybrid learning environment and secondary education students practicing distance learning.

There’s also an option for students to be part of a virtual learning academy where they’ll have dedicated instructors and will do all of their education online.

Oh, and there will be masks. I’m sure no one will have an opinion about that.

As the picture of school re-opening becomes more clear for our community -- West Fargo and Moorhead districts haven’t announced specific plans yet, but we can assume there will be a lot of similarities -- I think a few things will be more important than ever this fall:

  • Flexibility: Local employers (in addition to parents, of course) are going to have to be more flexible than ever this year. What happens in our schools affects everyone, as parents are a big part of our workforce. We will be living in a very fluid environment as the superintendent reiterated today, and it could change from week to week.

  • Transparency: State and local officials need to be transparent about risk. Politics have no place at the table. Thus far we haven’t been given much information about how and where people might be contracting the virus, and that puts everyone at a disadvantage when making a personal risk assessment. If schools are going to be relying on this information to keep the rest of us safe, transparency and honest communication will be critical.

  • Grace: If you didn’t feel working-mom (or dad) guilt before, wait until this fall. I feel terrible for admitting that I don’t have the skills or temperament to choose an entirely virtual track for my kids’ schooling this fall. I don’t also don’t think my kids would be successful in that environment so I’ve got to give myself some grace. We ALL need to do the same for each other. Now isn’t the time to be judgy.

At the end of the day, this will be a very personal decision for everyone, and a difficult one at that. We are in fact in our own version of a no-good “would you rather” game, but the options before us are very real this time. On the line is the health and safety of our kids, our teachers, and ultimately, our communities.

I just hope this is something we can all rally together on.