No place for good-byes: Mourning the end of the school year

Nora and Hazel with their wonderful principal, Dr. Clark Blair. Last day of school, 2018-19.

Today I visited my kids’ school to retrieve their stuff. As instructed, I went alone, carrying a handful of loaned books. The parking lot felt uncharacteristically desolate for a Tuesday afternoon–the empty, now-gated playground signifying the current crisis. I entered the building with no “buzzed” entry, nor security check at the door.

My eerie feelings temporarily waned when the principal, Dr. Blair, assistant principal, Mr. Roach, and security officer greeted me warmly. Wandering alone, the strangeness of the situation returned. I passed through the abandoned halls lined with labeled paper bags and stacks of books on tables.

After I deposited loaned books and gathered my children’s things (woefully noticing my daughter’s recorder peaking out of the bag), the finality of it all hit me. While we’ve known about the in-person school closing for some time and that the kids will continue online, this experience emotionally marked the point of no return for this year. Moreover, for my 5th grader, this was it for her time at McFadden School of Excellence.

She will be going to a fantastic middle school and she’s excited about new opportunities. And yet, I don’t want to downplay the difficulty of cutting short the end of an incredible six years (longer than I ever spent at any school), four of which she shared with her younger sister.

While the kids and their families are great, it is the teachers and staff that will be missed the most. They have brought new meaning to “above and beyond,” not only in providing interesting lessons, but in passion and care for their students. The Foss school at our house has been a poor substitution, a huge step-down that I am aware during each day of “class.”

Closing school was the right choice. At the same time, we should acknowledge the impact of this abrupt ending for all students, especially those transitioning to new schools without the formal farewell. Even if there’s eventually a socially-distant picnic, it won’t be the same.

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