I never used to like the phrase “it is what it is.” It seemed like something people would say when they were dismissing my very real anger or frustration. Or something they would say when they were trying to pretend they weren’t feeling anger or frustration themselves.
I know now that the reason I didn’t like the phrase was because I didn’t understand it. I hadn’t truly lived it.
Along came 2020.
Schooling in a Pandemic
Our state has declared that all schools must open 100% online at the start of this school year. Yay! But once the cases goes down to 25 cases per 100,000 in any district, that district can re-open for in-person classes. Boo!
What Type of School?
I’m starting to think that I am the only parent who does not want her child to go back to in-person classes. We watched him during the Spring cluster-f*ck that was school and were amazed to hear him talking, participating, even making Zoom jokes in his class. Basically acting like a typical obnoxious 6th-grade boy. When we’d observed him in class previously, he spoke very little, and participated the bare minimum required to keep the teacher from reprimanding him. When we asked him which he liked better, school in-person or school online, he immediately answered “online.” And anyone who knows him knows that him answering a question immediately is rare, think non-bot-real-people-on-Twitter or kids-who-clean-their-room-unprompted rare.
So, we would like to keep him in online school if that’s what he wants.
Online School Enrollment is Not For the Faint of Heart
When we started looking (in July) there appeared to be only one online school option. We went around asking friends if they’d gone there and looked for recommendations. This would be a big change so we wanted to be smart about it.
In August, we decided, yes, we’ll enroll. To enroll in an online public school, you typically have to prove you live in the state, prove your child is not a hoodlum, prove you will follow instructions, prove you know how to use a computer, and prove that you are a family that that charter school would want to have as part of their system.
You see, since it’s public school, it’s “free” to anyone who meets their criteria (in this case, resides in the state) but the school can also deny you access for any reason or no reason.
So we filled out their forms and submitted the paperwork requested and talked to their online counselors several times by phone and online chat. And then waited for them to answer. After a nail-biting amount of time (but turned out to be about two weeks), we received an acceptance letter.
We were thrilled. We called grandparents, we hugged, we emailed friends, and we chatted about how wonderful this would be. You could hear the birds chirping and the music swelling as we celebrated.
We signed up for our student and learning coach accounts, started watching the videos to prepare for school, and even got the name of all his teachers and his schedule. We learned they’d be sending us a microscope, jump rope, and pedometer, and that he’d get to read The Hobbit for language arts! His first class was on September 1 at 10am. He wasn’t thrilled to be starting school, but he was at least interested in this new adventure.
But the Bottom Dropped Out
On August 29 we logged in to his student desk and saw that they were going to do a maintenance project that night. We logged in on Sunday and had to reset our passwords. We weren’t surprised, maintenance projects tend to do that. But when we got logged in, all his classes, teachers, books, etc. were gone. We’d been erased from the system. When we called the tech help line we were told “it says you withdrew.”
My stomach dropped.
We called the school, but it was Sunday, so of course they weren’t available.
We Won’t Leave You in the Dark
On Monday (August 31) we called the school and left voicemail. I won’t tell you how many phone trees I had to wade through to even find a mailbox to actually leave voicemail. But if I tell you that my phone’s log says I started calling at 9:08am and I didn’t get through to the voicemail until 9:53am, that might give you a hint.
That Monday, I spoke to two actual people involved with the school. One was the district administrator. She was very nice, but not helpful. It wasn’t her fault and I hope she had a decent week.
The other was our counselor. I had high hopes for her because she’d written us the week before with a long list of things we needed to do to get ready for school to start. When I replied indicating that we were nervous she responded:
I totally empathize for the nervousness- BUT, we will make sure you guys are on track and won’t leave you in the dark. One step at a time.emphasis mine
She had included a phone number at the bottom, so I called her and low-and-behold she answered. She told me she didn’t know what had happened but she would talk to her supervisor and get back to me that morning.
I finally contacted her a few hours later, by email. At that point she said she’d spoken to her supervisor and there was nothing she could do. She suggested I send an email to an enrollment address. I had already emailed them, and heard nothing back–not even an autoresponder to let me know they’d gotten the message.
I spent the day trying to find someone, anyone who would talk to me and explain what had happened. The only people who did talk to me knew nothing and felt exactly zero empathy for us. Apparently there is no one at the school who’s job is to explain to parents what is going on when things break. All we’re supposed to do is wait for a response.
Spoiler alert, he didn’t start class on September 1.
Spoiler alert #2, it has now been six days since we were locked out with no notice or explanation. And no one has said anything to us.
This has been a stressful week.
Returning to the Old School
Because we’d been enrolled and were starting classes, we didn’t follow up with his old school regarding their standard beginning-of-the-year surveys and information gathering. We hadn’t unenrolled, we were just leaving that until later because we didn’t think it mattered. I mean, why verify our emergency contacts with a school that he’s not going to attend? Especially as they hadn’t changed…)
But now we had to do all that. And we had to do it immediately.
I now understand what people mean when they say “it is what it is.” It’s a way of accepting the infuriating vagaries of life that we have no control over.
These things “are what they are:”
- His district asked us in July what type of school we wanted for the Fall: 100% online, in-person (as soon as that was possible), or home schooling. These were all options that the district was offering students at his grade level.
We chose 100% online, for the reasons detailed above.
- When we got his schedule, he’d been signed up for in-person schooling. The survey was apparently just an opinion poll, not something we were signing up for.
- His Vice Principal reached out to me to say that he saw we wanted 100% online school. I agreed. He pointed out that in order to graduate, he’d have to take a history course that the online school didn’t offer. Our options were to postpone it until High School and hope they had it available for him to take or sign up for the in-person school for that class.
We chose sign up for in-person school for that class.
- The Vice Principal then told me that the advanced math we had signed up for was also not available online. Our options were sign up for 7th grade basic math online or take the in-person school class.
I said I needed to talk to my family about that and we would decide later. He agreed to have the counselor call on Thursday.
- We check his schedule Thursday night and see that he’s still signed up for 6 in-person classes.
- The counselor calls on Friday after we left several messages on Thursday. She tells me that the electives (civics and PE) are not offered at the online school (why am I still surprised by this?) and did we want to take those at the in-person school as well?
We agree to that and tell her we’ll also be taking advanced math in-person.
By this point, I am so angry and frustrated that my brain has melted and I’m back to calm.
And I understand the phrase “it is what it is.”
2020 has been a dumpster fire of a year. But it is what it is.
I am going to focus on my writing (Digital Dryad is going out to agents and publishers – fingers crossed!) and my family. Everything else can be whatever it is. I am washing my hands of it all. At least 2020 taught me how to do that well.
In Person School, Isn’t
Since everyone that I’ve bored to tears with this saga has asked this:
Yes, in-person school will be 100% online starting next week.
I believe, however, that my son would do better with a consistent year of classes, rather than possibly going to hybrid model and then possibly going to fully in-class at some time in the next nine months.
Honestly, I’m surprised other parents aren’t more upset by this lack of continuity as well. But as I mentioned, it seems like I’m the only one who wants to continue to do online school.