My family was supposed to move back South this summer. That was the plan as soon as we left back in 2017.
I will never forget the day my life changed. Sitting in room 134, a thought came to my mind that the changes I desperately wanted to see would not be achieved from the classroom, but through a move to administration. So, I enrolled in the School of Advanced Studies and completed my educational specialist degree in education leadership, curriculum and instruction. I always dreamed of being an administrator in my district, but of course, we plan and life happens.
Moving from Alabama was devastating to our oldest child. The day we left, I looked my daughter in the eyes and promised her, “When you start high school, we will move back.” I meant every word of that promise and last year, began to set a plan in motion to make that happen. As a secondary educator, I understand how important high school is, so I wanted to ensure that my daughter would be set up for success.
Last October, my daughter came to us stating she found a performing arts high school in Northern Virginia to which she wanted to apply. Of course, this was a surprise to us because the plan has always been to move back during the summer of 2020. We supported her decision—she applied and was accepted. We put our house in Alabama on the market and resolved to be in Virginia until her graduation.
Looking at the return plans for the school my daughter would have gone to in Alabama, I am grateful we did not move back. School will be in session 5 days a week even though they have a high number of cases of COVID19. The district has also decided to make masks optional for students in school, but a requirement on the bus. As a high school student, she would have still transitioned from class to class each day. School starts in four weeks, and I can only imagine what the numbers will be by then not just in Alabama, but across all the states.
Thinking about sending my children back to school is scary—what is the responsible thing to do? I am happy to be in my county in Virginia where they have moved the start date to September and have adopted 100% virtual learning for the first quarter, but my heart hurts thinking about kids across the nation who are in states that espouse the beliefs of DeVos and the president, pushing for full-time in-person school.
When did this virus become a political game? When did our children, school staff and educators become dispensable? Is it that the administration knows that our Black and Brown students are most at risk should they become infected?
This false narrative that students “need to be back in school” is simply not true. Let’s be clear, prior to the virus, the promise of education for many of our most underserved students was unfulfilled. The virus revealed the issues with hunger, the problem of inequity that is pervasive in the U.S. and it has also shown us that America is not great for all citizens.
Kids need to be safe, they need to be fed, they need to have resources, they need fully funded schools, they need to be loved and believed in—they do not need to be your guinea pigs in the fall. They do not need to be spoken about in numbers, but as real people, with real lives. They need to be acknowledged as our future, as the people who can—and will—truly make this nation great for everyone, not just those in certain area codes.
Our children, educators, families and citizens deserve better. We deserve better than the lies that we are told daily. We deserve better than a thoughtless plan for school reopening that only strives to keep the economy going. We deserve a secretary of education who can lead with a plan that protects ALL children. Our reality now is that the secretary of education is the very definition of White privilege, is not qualified, is out of touch and simply does not care about our children. We deserve the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in our daily lives. We deserve the truth. We deserve better!
Living where I do will prove to yield a better outcome for my children in the fall, but we all deserve for the safety of our children to not be predicated on the state we live in. Educators, parents, community members, and students, I implore you this fall, in the words of Frederick Douglass, to “Agitate, agitate, agitate!”
Kelisa Wing is the author of "Weeds & Seeds: How To Stay Positive in the Midst of Life’s Storms" and "Promises and Possibilities: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline" (both available on Amazon). She also is a 2017 State Teacher of the year, speaker, teacher and activist for discipline reform. Kelisa holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maryland University College, a ...