Difficult family decision on school

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Andrew Roberts returning from an Algonquin trip on Feb. 29, 2020
Photo/Debra Roberts

On Aug. 13 school superintendent Greg Martineau emailed Northborough/Southborough families about two back-to-school options: a hybrid model or Stand Alone Remote Program (SARP). This was a cause for debate in my family.

I felt the hybrid plan would provide in-person school benefits as opposed to sitting at home on a computer all day. However, my brother Ryan, an incoming freshman, was determined to stay home due to his fear of COVID-19. My parents said they would select the same option for both of us and agreed to a mock trial so we could present our cases to aid their decision.   

A return to school could increase the chance of spreading the virus but the district made plans to minimize risks. Students will have to adapt to make it work, like wear masks and sit six feet apart at lunch.

However, I felt SARP was a greater sacrifice. I was concerned about feeling isolated and having FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I also had academic concerns. SARP might prevent me from being in the right mindset to maintain my grades and there will be less electives offered—SARP may rely on third-party vendors. I had used a third-party vendor for an online class last summer and did not have a positive experience. 

On the night before the deadline (Aug 18) my parents asked us to present our cases. I argued that the hybrid plan, while not ideal, offered more pros than cons. I would likely be in a better school routine, get my electives, and see my friends. 

Ryan argued that we didn’t know enough to make a good decision, so we’re better off playing it safe. The lack of consistency and worries about safety could be stressful for students as well as teachers who are at a higher risk due to their exposure to more students. He said the biggest pro was “not dying” and said, “let’s stay home instead of risking our lives.”

My parents had a 20-minute discussion before announcing that they chose SARP. I was disappointed with their decision but grateful that they at least took the time to hear me out. The court-like process to choose our back-to-school plan was a “new normal” for our family during this pandemic. 

Ultimately, all students will start their 2020-2021 school year soon and regardless of the model, every family will have to adjust to changes due to COVID.

 

Andrew Roberts, Rising Junior at Algonquin Regional High School 

Northborough