One of my favorite quotes about parenting is from an unknown author.  It reads, “the trouble with being a parent is that by the time you are experienced, you are unemployed.”

A simple truth about being a parent is there is no written guidance, no manual, no pre-test to see if you are qualified and no trophies for tough choices you are forced to make.

You do the best you can and pray they remember the life’s lessons you taught them.  Unfortunately, they will only ‘get it’ once they become parents themselves.

One of the biggest challenge parents are now facing is the difficult decision about how to send their children back to school.

The debate is ongoing, and parents are bombarded with opinions from the president, pediatricians, governors, and state health and education officials.  Everyone appears to have their own agenda regarding schools re-opening while parents are left to make sense of it all and determine the best choice possible for their child.

Since I have one more child at home, I do not have the luxury of letting everyone fight it out and watch as things unfold to see what effect all this ‘best advice’ has on the educational needs of students as well as their safety.  My husband and I have debated for weeks on the right plan for our daughter.  The decision has not been an easy one.

The reality is there are biases based on political, economic and emotional factors.  Parents must not, however, get caught up in any of that.

Alabama Superintendent, Eric Mackey on Friday said he thinks all Alabama schools should re-open for in-person instruction.

I really do agree with him, but it is not that simple.

Mackey says he believes every school district should offer in-person options for children and a remote option and let parents choose.  He said each school district board has the responsibility to implement their own plans.

So far, 18 Alabama school districts and one charter school have decided to do virtual -only learning.

Mackey said approximately 40-50 percent of the state’s school age children will be going to school remotely.

We all know there is a great benefit to children being in class with other kids.  There is no way the benefits of personal interaction with a teacher in the classroom can be replaced with virtual learning.  But the necessary restrictions and guidelines being placed upon the districts by federal and local health officials will make school, as children knew it, unrecognizable.  Safety must come first.

Some restrictions include no backpacks, no lunch boxes, no water fountains, frequent sanitizing of desktops and devices, social distancing, face masks when social distancing is not possible, no lockers, bathrooms limited to one student at a time, virtual homework and temperature checks.  These are just a few examples of challenges students will face for in-person learning.

Virtual learning is impersonal and there is no teacher/student relationship.  Children who have difficulty learning may be left behind if there is no one really paying attention to their lack of comprehension of the subject material.  Parents who must work will be forced to put their children in childcare facilities which could put them at a greater health risk.

Neither option is great, but those are the choices we have been given.

Mackey was asked about what guidance districts have been given regarding potential outbreaks.  He said the education department is working with the Department of Public Health to devise a plan.  In other words, we do not have a clue how we will handle it.

Explaining that the in-person option will not include a school they will remember is a necessary conversation that parents need to have with their child.

The economic side of life requires children return to school so parents can return to work.  The educational side confirms that kids need to return to school so they can learn and develop in a way that is familiar to them.  Both are valid points, but it still leaves parents conflicted.

The burden on administrators and teachers is unprecedented.

We all want things to be the way they were, but that will not be happening anytime soon.

School districts are really on their own in this.  Each system must form their plans based on student population and community health.  Some will have more flexibility than others.

Parents will have to make the call based on their individual child’s needs and their economic situation.  Tough decisions are ahead.

There are no right or wrong answers to this impossible test and a one size fits all plan will not be applicable either.

For parents, a tough job just got harder.

Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at

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