Deborah Rose column: We have a responsibility to support each other through challenging school year

Deborah Rose

Deborah Rose

Deborah Rose / Hearst Connecticut Media

In just a little over a week, buses are expected to be rolling again in New Milford. But this won’t be like any normal school year.

Kids will be wearing masks through the school day. That means on the bus — although I suspect many parents will drive their child(ren) to and from school — and in the school buildings.

Mask breaks are calculated into each school day. Is that enough? Surely masks will end up coming off when they’re not supposed to.

I’d like to think of myself as optimistic about this, but I have doubts, like many other parents.

Desks will be farther apart to stay within the suggested “safe” social distancing guidelines. Teachers will also follow mask and social distancing guidelines. And hand sanitizer will be available everywhere.

Safety measures are wonderful and necessary. And I appreciate the countless hours school boards, administrators and staff have put in to hear parents’ concerns and offer solutions that fit these unprecedented times.

And I value the conversations parents have had among themselves, with school officials and on social media as they process what the new school year will look like, how it will affect their family and whether to send their child to school or participate in remote learning.

Many families have struggled with the decision of whether to send their child(ren) back to the classroom, and for good reasons.

The decision was easy for my family. In fact, I sort of made my decision sometime in late March, when we were following stay-at-home orders. At the time, I told my friends and family that there was no way I was going to send the kids to school in the fall if it opened.

I didn’t have a plan at the time. But I was adamant and scared. Like so many other parents, I was paralyzed by the truth all around us: A new virus was spreading quickly, and we didn’t have the resources to stop it. We still don’t. All we could do — and can do for now — is slow the spread by following certain guidelines.

I strongly believe in the guidelines: Social distancing, masks and proper hand washing. Even though schools will provide these protocols, I still can’t send my kids into the classroom at this point. Two people in my household are in the high-risk category. And there are still so many unknowns.

My kids and I had some struggles in the spring with remote learning, and I’m sure we will face some similar challenges very soon. It won’t be easy for them or myself.

I have no idea what the new school year will bring to us in terms of academics, or how many tears I will shed trying to help the kids with their math. Math just seemed simpler when I learned it.

Despite the fact I’ve had months to think about it, I feel a bit ill prepared for Sept. 8. One designated desk space is as far as I’ve gotten so far; I’m one desk short and need to figure that out. But that’s better than how they worked in the spring with makeshift “desks” at the dining room table and TV tables in the living room.

The kids would probably award me the Mother of the Year Award for letting them end the school year working from their beds. But I’m optimistic this will be different. I want the kids to have a more permanent space where they can set up camp and hopefully feel more comfortable and, more importantly, motivated.

Still, I don’t think I’m as mentally prepared for the new school year as other parents who have chosen remote learning are.

Perhaps it’s because I want to put off the reality of how are lives are for as long as possible because I know getting the kids up earlier than they have been getting up will be difficult, the kids will fuss about doing some of the work even though they’ll be home, and I will inevitably lose my patience at some point. But I’m game. I believe it’s for the best for now.

This year everything will be different — transportation, attire, desks, directional hallways, the ways kids learn and so much more.

Even the first day of school photographs I’ve taken for more than two decades for the paper will be different. Normally I’m visiting bus stops and taking photos inside the schools to illustrate the start of a new academic year. This year, it will look very different.

And no matter what decision families have made — to send their child(ren) to school or participate in remote learning at home — it is our responsibility as parents, as a school district, as a community to be there for the children and our neighbors as we all face the start of another school year.

As a society, we have all gone through a traumatic experience since the coronavirus pandemic struck in early spring in the U.S. We are all exhausted. We need to set aside any judgment we might have and instead focus on listening, helping and supporting one another however we can. Because we all need it.

Deborah Rose is a lifelong New Milford resident who has worked at The Spectrum since its inception in 1998. She can be reached by email at