Key Issues

Back to School for the First Time


My two oldest children are 12 and 13, and until recently I had never cried at a school drop off; not the first day of preschool, not the start of full-day kindergarten, not when we moved to the Peninsula School District and they both started at a new school. I always looked at school like an adventure they were about to embark on and there’s nothing sad about an adventure.

That all changed when I dropped our sixth grader off for his first day of in-person instruction last month. As he jumped out of the car, mask on and attestation form in hand, I was completely caught off guard when I started to tear up. I tried to keep it together but ended up crying the entire way home.

The last year of living through a global pandemic has been a lot. A lot of emotions, a lot of decisions, a lot of uncertainty and a lot of things lost. It all caught up with me as I drove away from our newly minted middle schooler standing in the socially distanced line in front of the building. What was different about this moment? Why was I suddenly so emotional?

I’ve watched for the past 12 months as our two sons got the hang of remote learning. I saw firsthand as teachers and students adapted on short notice and settled into learning in a virtual environment. We’ve mastered Schoology, Kami, Zoom, Google Docs, Slide Decks, Smart Music, and overcome more Wi-Fi failures than I can count. I watched as awkward middle school friendships developed in a Zoom breakout room and was shooed out of the room when it was their time to present. Virtual learning wasn’t the same as in-person school but I liked having them at home. We got into a routine that I think we all enjoyed.

However, we welcomed the return to hybrid, in-person learning. We felt it was time to begin the transition back to traditional schooling. We were never under the assumption that it would be the same as when they left on March 12, 2020, but we believed being on campus again was important. Each day when I pick them up from school, they report new things they’re enjoying. Smaller class sizes are great! They saw an old friend for the first time in a year! The principals made them laugh on announcements! They met someone new in class! It was sunny and they could go outside after lunch! There’s even a renewed sense of excitement about their schoolwork. The asynchronous learning days at home are focused and productive. We really couldn’t ask for much more.

Who knows what September 2021 will bring? We’d love a return to full in-person school but the global pandemic has taught us to have measured expectations. Regardless of what is offered next year, our boys will be ready and we’ll be grateful for every opportunity the school district offers.

Meredith Browand is a mother and activist who lives in Purdy.