Pleasing any of the people tough during pandemic

I asked Ken yesterday what happened at the Hinsdale Village Board the previous night.

"They're going with a hybrid model," he replied dryly. "Tom, Laurel and Jerry will attend the first meeting of the month. Scott, Neale, Matt and Luke will attend the second meeting."

He jests, of course, but the "hybrid model" is on our minds. We've spent a lot of time learning and writing about hybrid plans for Hinsdale students to return to school.

First I "attended" (i.e. watched online) a Hinsdale High School District 86 Board meeting at which some parents were quite angry the district was not offering a five-day in-person plan for students.

Just a few days later, Ken covered a Community Consolidated District 181 Board meeting where the situation was reversed. Parents and teachers complained the five-day in-person plan was not safe. When the board decided to pursue a hybrid model instead, parents who liked the five-day in-person plan were not happy.

This narrative has played out in other area communities as well. To generalize, some parents want their kids in school for full days five days a week. They prioritize in-person instruction and the social-emotional health of their students. Another group would prefer to have their kids learn remotely part of the week so class sizes can be smaller and students can be socially distanced more effectively.

Who's right?

Who knows.

As D181 board member Nate Lucht pointed out Monday night, so much of the data is contradictory. And with contradictory data come contradictory opinions. Students should be six feet apart. No, wait, it should be three!

And every family is facing its own unique circumstances, with parents' work situations, family members' health conditions and other issues at play.

It's both unfortunate and not surprising that there have been some heated comments from parents. At various times parents in both districts have accused school officials (from administrators to board members to teachers) of being lazy, uncaring and incompetent.

We haven't printed most of these comments, primarily because we barely have enough space to explain the different options the boards have been discussing and what they will mean to students. We also try to keep the focus on what is actually happening and away from heated rhetoric.

Here's my takeaway after spending hours listening to parents and administrators: None of this is simple.

Listen to Hinsdale Central Principal Bill Walsh talk about the complexities of scheduling lunch periods for 650 students in groups of 50 students or fewer and your head will spin. Consider the fact that elementary school teachers can teach any subject but middle school teachers can only teach the subjects they are certified in and the whole question of how to divide up kids in District 181 (where many families have kids in elementary and middle schools) becomes a lot more complicated.

I understand parents are angry and frustrated. I get angry and frustrated at times, too.

But I know that the best thing I can do right now is support whatever decision is ultimately made. Our kids are likely to follow our lead. If we try to make the best of it, they are likely to do the same. Conversely, if we act as if their chances to grow up to be productive, happy adults have just been squashed, they are likely to feel despair as well.

This is an FFT, as Brené Brown calls it. A freaking first time (that's the PG version) for all of us. We need to recognize that, normalize it, put it in perspective and reality check our expectations.

And we should all go hug our kids and let them know everything is going to be OK. Because it will.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email us at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean