I’ll be the first to say that I am incredibly proud of — and thankful for — the great school system that we have in the Lebanon School District. The administrators and teachers of the district are all wonderful people who have devoted their lives to education. Our community could not ask for better people to teach our children. I’ve sent four sons through the school district. I’ve always seen the success of the district leading to the success of my children. In short, I care about our school district and the people who work there.
As much as I love the Lebanon School District, I love my kids even more; which is why something must be said. Some of our young adults have not seen the inside of a classroom more than once a week since March of 2020, depending on where their last name falls in the alphabet. They haven’t had the chance to say “hello” to their friends on the other side of the alphabet or sit in the classroom with them, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. For nearly a year, our kids have languished through the toils and pains of online education. Instead of daily personal instruction, they are largely relegated to zoom rooms, emails, and playing catch up
Our brave teachers are doing all they can do to deliver the same quality of education, but virtual learning just cannot compete with in-person learning. Even as the number of cases drops, even while the vaccine is rolling out to thousands of Missourians, even as we learn more and more about safely gathering in-person, the school doors remain shuttered.
Yet, while our public schools remain closed, private schools in our area are open for in-seat instruction. For instance, Tabernacle Christian Academy is a local private school that has its doors open, classrooms filled, and in-person learning. Tabernacle Christian Academy is actually using the schoolhouse for what it is for, and in our very same town.
In-seat instruction matters a whole lot. Students need the social and emotional learning that comes with interacting with their peers. Over the past year, they have lost out on vital social development, and their mental health has suffered for it. Of course, student and teacher safety is top priority, and the thing is, it’s clear that students can gather safely in-person with little risk of COVID spreading. Are our young adults supposed to remain forever in front of a computer screen until the virus is eradicated? That could take years. We are frustrated by a lack of a plan or any indication of reopening schools. We know that in-seat learning can happen safely because private schools are already doing it.
Why are we continuing to wait? How long before parents realize that there are options outside public schools? Never in all our years has the divide between public and private schools been more stark. At one point, we told ourselves, “Why put our kids in private schools when the public schools are so good?” And for the first time any of us can remember, we are now asking ourselves, “Why are we keeping our kids in public schools when the private schools are open?” Our kids deserve the best education possible, and in-seat learning is now one of our top considerations in evaluating the schools before us. We will continue to fight to protect our children’s education.
Anna Cooley Henson is a mom of four who lives in Lebanon.