Well, we survived the first week of school of the 2020-21 school year.

I won’t say the first week of in-person learning because with the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in area long-term assisted living facilities the discussion and/or decision to move to the hybrid model has occurred. Notably, Hibbing canceled school Friday and transitioned 7-12 graders to hybrid starting Monday.

Mesabi East, also, didn’t have school this week opting to push their start date back to Monday as they are beginning with upper grades in the hybrid model.

Although these changes don’t affect my children — Mick attends Marquette and Shannon attends Virginia High School — we, too, have had an unexpected week.

Day one of school, Shannon broke her toe at the Tuesday swim meet. With dad to the rescue, this undaunted duo spent the evening in the ER.

“Can’t I just stay up until they get home?” whined Mick. Don’t let the begging fool you. He knew his sister was fine. He just didn’t want to go to bed at the school-night time of 8:30 p.m. versus distance learning and summer bedtime of 9:30 p.m.

But soon after tucking him in, after concluding a chapter in “The Jungle Book”, Shannon and dad hobbled in the front door. My husband had his arms overloaded with swimming and school gear and she tried very hard to figure out how to maneuver the steps with a restrictive boot and crutches.

Mick rushed down the stairs, “Are you done with swimming for the year?” As of right now, no. Just a few weeks of rest.

Did I notice a look of disappointment flickering across his face? Doesn’t he realize he now has double chores as she can’t bend down to retrieve dog droppings or empty the dishwasher?

Day two of school, I feared the worst. Although Shannon was learning to use her crutches, Mick and I approached the story “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi!”

“The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling, unlike the Disney movie, is a collection of short stories. The first few center on the jungle child Mowgli, panther Bagheera and bear Baloo. Then, halfway through the book, there is a story about the white seal (which I really enjoyed). Then, chapter five is “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi!” — the story of a mongoose which for some reason I really don’t like.

So Wednesday, after Shannon had hobbled to bed early, Mick and I cuddled on the couch and I opened our book.

“We just read that story the last two days in class,” Mick said.

“Awesome!” I exclaimed, flipping past the dreaded story. Score one for Marquette!

On Thursday, updated infection rate numbers were released by the county. In one week, Greater St. Louis County jumped from 4.87 to 10.87. With a rate over 10 prompting schools to consider starting older kids hybrid learning, I thought, “Seriously? Already?”

Since the county started releasing infection rate information, Greater St. Louis County had topped out at 5.37 for the dates of July 5 - July 18. Duluth’s rate has topped out at 17.39 during Aug. 2 - Aug. 15. I honestly thought we were starting the year at a great level and this conversation would be further down the road. But there have been outbreaks in long-term care facilities and this jump, which now puts us higher than Duluth’s 9.90, is cause for concern.

Is this a hint of what awaits us around the next corner, or every corner — spikes and sudden changes?

“I keep an eye on things everyday, I’m not surprised,” said my husband. We were on a lunchtime walk and I wanted to measure his feelings on the topic. He recently wrote a story about one Lamppa family all testing positive. Between that family and a few long-term care facilities,he could identify more than half of the 26 confirmed cases in Virginia at the time.

“I’ll be worried when kids come home from school infected. Not sports teams, as they are an isolated group. But when little Johnny goes to school with the sniffles, tests positive and then contact tracing is needed for everyone in his four classes plus whomever else he associates, that’ll be it.”

We talked about last week’s Rock Ridge parent Q&A Zoom where Superintendent Noel Schmidt cautioned parents against students hanging out together and not being protected, such as riding in a car together, without face masks.

I don’t know what is going to happen and that is stressful.

The uncertainty and dread of awaiting changes is really taking its toll on our community, our families, us as individuals. People seem to be on a hair trigger and are quickly getting nasty. My note here is to just be nice and try to do the best you can. That is all anyone can ask of you.

Mick was ready for school to start. After being out of the classroom for six months, he was ready to be around peers and out of the house. Shannon, too, was ready but with participating in sports and social media, she is less dependent on constant face-to-face interactions for her mental health.

As a parent, I was ready for them both to get back in school. Distance learning is difficult to navigate as a working parent and summer presented interesting challenges.

With the kids back in school, it is incredibly reassuring to be back to normal– you know, but with the bonus of a pandemic. Our life is back to a more predictable rhythm, for now (I hate always attaching that caveat to every positive statement!).

Then, let’s not forget, the hours of lost power in Virginia on Thursday. “We will pick you up if they officially cancel school,” my husband said through the phone to Shannon. What else could go wrong? Well, we found out that night she wasn’t really using her crutches all the time, but threats of lifelong difficulties hopefully changed that for Friday.

So we’ve survived the first week of school. I won’t say we’ve thrived but it has been a welcome change.

Dear friend, how was your week? Know, you are not alone. It doesn’t matter if you have kids in school or not, remember to take care of yourself. As you put effort into being kind to others, be kind to yourself. And rest up this weekend! We’ve got another week to come.


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