As an educator and councilwoman, the end of the school year will be bittersweet.  No physical goodbyes and no traditional closure.  For students everywhere, the lessons this school year were like no other. Students, teachers, and their families were presented with challenges none of us had experienced nor expected.  But, as this hybrid school year nears the finish line, this unprecedented, historical event has taught us a number of things about our preparedness, about ourselves, and about a community coming together.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”  Perhaps, in living through this pandemic, if we have learned anything, it has been the ability to set our priorities and work determinedly under the most incredible of situations. Sure our internet acted up, siblings were sharing computers, parents were working from home while keeping structure for their children, but like Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.”

The lessons learned, as a consequence of quarantining, will undoubtedly be skills that students have fine-tuned over the last few months and which will be more visible and prevalent than ever before upon the return of schools in whatever form that may look like… and will last a lifetime.  Aside from becoming extra technologically savvy, crucial skills students have internalized include creativity, problem-solving, patience, adaptability, prioritizing, self-management, negotiating, flexibility, etc.  Sometimes, learning begins at the end of your comfort zone. As a teacher who also became learner, I subscribe to that idea.

When schools reopen, the school community will comply with CDC guidelines.  Health and elected officials will work to decide on best practices and together will ensure that safety measures are put in place.  It is certain we will be faced with a new normal.  Accordingly, districts will be looking at implementing the best safe and healthy standards.  Packaged and sealed lunches may be served in classrooms. Students’ supplies and materials will most likely be enclosed in a container labeled with their names. Desks will be distanced and arranged differently.  Signs will be posted as reminders for healthy habits.  Floor tapes might indicate one-way directions.  Class trips and meetings will be delivered remotely. Frequently touched surfaces will be sanitized often.  Masks and gloves will be part of the recommendations.  Staff will be trained on all Covid-19 protocols and there might be A/B days for student attendance among so many other procedures.  The list will be long and the planning is in its initial phase.

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In this era of the unknown, what is known is that it is up to all of us to make it work under any scenario, but it will take a village.  Students have proven that they are resilient, dedicated, and are motivated for the next school year however it starts.  Parents are heroes who have continued to support their children.  And, teachers and administrators have not lost sight of the commitment and connection to their students.  Together, this year, great strides have been made in what at first looked like scary, uncharted territory. We have realized, in the process that the successful formula for teaching and learning has always been love and caring, and education is ultimately a community effort no matter what form it takes… no matter where it takes place.  Education is the acquisition of knowledge… and so we can say… mission accomplished.

Progress is made when the community is a team, when we elect leaders who listen and act, and when everyone has a voice at the table, committed to moving forward.

VOTE Column A on your mail-in ballot before July 7th, the Right Way Forward!

Councilwoman Isabel Sousa