By Gail Kablau
March 13, 2020 will be one of those days that will forever be etched in my memory. The day our school administration announced that it would be closed indefinitely for the COVID-19 epidemic. A short time later, I was called to the high school auditorium to witness our administrators telling the students performing in the school musical that was to open that evening, that they would only be allowed to perform one night, it would start an hour and a half earlier, and only parents could come.
The gravity of the health situation going on in the world was not lost on them, but the weight of it crashing down on what they had all worked so hard for was devastating to watch.
While there was immediate shock, and then free flowing tears, it was the students who stood up and told each other to look on the bright side. Other schools had already cancelled all of their performances, and they had the chance to do it at least one time. They held each other, they cried, they gave each other pep talks, and then they were released early to go home and get ready for what would certainly be the performance of a lifetime. As someone who was assisting with the musical, performing as a musician in the pit, I was lucky enough to be able to experience that once in a lifetime performance. It was truly a memorable night.
The next day a new normal began – staying inside, working from home, limiting trips to the store, social distancing, virtual classes. I spoke in my last blog about how we were immediately fighting the next day to make sure that support staff were going to get paid, and not lose their benefits, during this required shutdown. Districts around the state were mostly doing the right thing in paying all of their staff, but as time has gone from shutting down for 2 weeks, to 4 weeks, to now the end of the school year, we are starting to see the furloughs and layoffs for those, all ESP members, who were once considered essential employees.
And the outlook for summer school, and next fall is starting to look like our new normal may be around longer than anyone could have imagined. I am now the one in shock (as I know are many of you), and worried that some of my support staff colleagues may have performed their last task, and didn’t even know it.
But I’m not one to back down from a challenge. I know that if we stay connected, educate ourselves and each other on what seems to be daily changes in our new normal, that we can fight back and work with our districts to utilize our skills in ways that perhaps they never thought of. Together, if we continue to share our stories, we can write our own destiny in the changes that will certainly come from this experience in how education happens.
That is why we are fighting to connect all education support professionals throughout the State, by holding a Statewide ESP Zoom call to share those stories. In working with the State WEAC officers and other ESP leaders throughout the State, we have been able to create an opportunity to do that through this town hall style virtual call. I hope all of you will join me on that call on Tuesday, April 28th at 4:00pm. Make sure to register online in advance.
Let’s all work together to show our Districts just how relevant we are. Because when all is said and done, there is no going back to what we were. We will be forever changed – as individuals, as families, and in our communities.
Join me on the ESP call April 28th – I want to hear about your new normal. Let’s Talk!
Gail Kablau is the WEAC Education Support Professional (ESP)-at-Large Board Representative. Contact her at: email@example.com.