Well, mommas, we made it. It might not have been easy, pretty, or ideal, but we somehow managed to walk our kids through 9 weeks of a school year in our homes. As we look ahead to the reopening of our dear city, certain things remain ambiguous. When can we eat at restaurants again? Will our vacations happen? Will our paycuts be reinstated? Will our beloved customers return to our small business? Will I be able to fit into any of my non-pajama clothing anytime soon? Looking ahead to the end of summer, one very serious question is weighing on everyone’s minds; “will schools be able to safely reopen in August?”
Our family is divided in terms of where our children go to school. Some of my kids attend public school, and some of them are enrolled in a tuition-based Catholic school. While we won’t know for a few months whether or not schools will be welcoming students back, one thing hasn’t been put on hold … tuition.
Tuition was due May 1st. Yikes. We paid it in full, but now I wonder if there were other things to think about before sending such a large sum of hard-earned money to a wavering entity. Truth be told, we don’t know what August will look like. Hopefully we will be “business as usual,” but what if we aren’t? What if, come August, we are still limiting group interactions? Will teachers be sending me lesson plans to begin the new school year?! If we spend the first 9 weeks of the 2020-2021 school year quarantined, should I pay the same amount for an education that I am having to present, organize and lead? I know schools need capital to pay teachers and staff, but we sure are in a strange time. I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I do believe that distance learning is quite different from being physically at school for many reasons.
Here’s the thing: while this last nine weeks was the best effort of teachers, administrators, and parents to continue our kids’ education, it wasn’t the same as school. This may be stating the obvious, but it’s important to keep in mind. School includes friends and social interactions. School offers equipped teachers with experience and professional credentials. School has smells, and traditions, and routines, and activities. School is an experience. And that experience is why we pay tuition. And let me say, even if you don’t choose (or simply can’t afford) to pay tuition, school is STILL an experience. At home virtual learning (not to be confused with homeschooling) is not the same as being on campus for any student. Period.
That being said, with all of the “extras” that come from an on campus environment, can we be expected to pay full price when so much has changed? This is a really hard topic. Teachers are the salt of the Earth and deserve so much more than they earn; however, I don’t know if it’s a fair assumption that families can shoulder the tuition bill indefinitely in our current situation. Many families have lost jobs. Small business owners are struggling. Not all families have a parent that can devote some (or all) of their day to virtual learning. Many parents are on the front lines or have jobs that require being physically present. For a single working mom (or dad), this is a nearly impossible long-term solution.
There are so many dynamics that families will have to think through going forward based on our “new normal.” I know for many families, school also means childcare, either for single parents or houses where both parents work. This is especially true for the youngest students who cannot be home alone. These families will likely have to arrange for a caregiver if they are Pre-K or younger, or a tutor to facilitate the distance learning curriculum for older kids who need some help. And again, jobs have been lost, or for some just paused, so we’re talking about families at the height of stress trying to figure out how to implement a distance curriculum while working … while paying a school at the same time?! In our house, jobs haven’t changed, for which we are grateful, but our grocery bill sure has.
I don’t know the right answer, and I certainly don’t envy the amount of brain power administrators and teachers are having to put forth to figure this out. These are unprecedented times with no clear cut answers. I am merely interested in opening a conversation with families in New Orleans as I know many moms are worried what will happen to that tuition they sent in. For now, we are hopeful that our “Paid in Full” will equate to a glorious reunion of our kids with their teachers. Because if not … we just donated a bunch of money so that my kids can sit at my kitchen table.