Back to School Blues

With the start of our fall internship program, we welcome two of the close to 300 thousands students heading back to state universities in Georgia this week. Kathryn Ann Waller and Soleil Antoine are seniors at University of Georgia and Georgia State respectively. As with our recent summer interns, we'll do our best to engage and inform them over Zoom calls, while our brick-and-mortar office remains empty (sans moi). The back-to-school blues take on new meaning in the time of Covid. High schools and colleges are scrambling to navigate the plethora of unknowns. It is nothing if not fluid -- some are offering hybrid schedules of half in-person and half online classes, while others are condensing semesters so they run through with no breaks and let out at Thanksgiving.

Some schools have already tried and failed. The Washington Post reported a Georgia school nurse's story of quitting because she didn't think she could safely do her job. In the article, she reflects on the number of kids who rely on school meals to not go hungry. Students also count on schools for counseling, computers, access to WiFi, mental health support and period products. With schools out since March, Helping Mamas has distributed nearly 600 thousand period products to girls in need this year, which is nearly double that of this time last year. Through its mission to provide a safe haven for Jews on campuses, Hillels of Georgia will be helping 5,000 students on 24 campuses across the state keep the faith in the time of Covid through online programming and virtual Shabbat. Of course it's not just the students who are being impacted. If you read Smitten Kitchen doyenne Deb Perelman's achingly sad article in the New York Times last month, you know that working moms are struggling to balance a full-time job they've managed to keep with overseeing their children's online learning -- a no-win situation. Some are forming "learning pods," whereby parents pay tutors upwards of $100 per hour per kid to come to their homes and teach a select few. By select few, I mean those who can afford it. No one has a crystal ball. Yet, I humbly offer that no school administrator or elected official is approaching this with malice or ill will. They may totally blunder it, it might actually work or it could be a hybrid. Let's try to have grace for the hardworking souls who are trying to teach our kids.

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