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Jeff Whitten: Trying to do the best thing
editor's notes

From the rear lines of the pandemic, continued:


I have writer’s block, so might as well use this space to write about real news for a change. Sorry.

I sat through the school board’s July 23 meeting at Richmond Hill High School and was impressed both by parents’ comments and by Bryan County Board of Education Chairwoman Amy Murphy’s statement afterward, and I’ll quote from it in a minute.

The bottom line is there are few easy choices nowadays. Sure, back seat drivers and those with the benefit of not having to be responsible for the education and safety of 10,000 kids and another 1,300 employees may think otherwise, but at the end of the day the people getting paid to run the system — i.e., Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher, administrators, etc. — have a job to do.

From most accounts, they do a pretty good job of it. Else, why would so many people, including a few of those who stood up to voice concerns over the system’s reopening plan, say repeatedly they “moved here because of the schools.” Are they perfect? No. Nothing is. But they’re good schools here. Great schools, in many ways.

As for Murphy’s comments, which I suspect were made on behalf of the board and in consultation with its members, I’m including a lengthy excerpt. Not because I have writer’s block, which I do, but because I think it’s well done and, more importantly, heartfelt.

“Your job as a parent is to love your child, guide your child, and strive to provide every opportunity for growth and success that you can. We again are appreciative that you have taken the time to share with us how our decisions affect your family and your child on an individual basis. That is part of what a parent does- reaches out, asks questions and teaches their child how to speak out appropriately when concerns arise.

“More than anything tonight, we want you to take away how very much we care. We understand there is frustration, anxiety and disappointment.

“In fact, frustration, anxiety and disappointment are actually great ways to describe life in many ways right now. Just 6 short months ago, no one in this room was thinking about COVID. The majority of us were enjoying the normalcy of a routine life. And then we were all stopped in our tracks. COVID has affected everyone differently and profoundly.

“As summer was moving along, the plan was truly to fully open our doors with increased disinfecting and safety measures. But, like you, we have watched as COVID is an ever evolving situation. And so it became important to try to offer families an alternative to in person instruction. The intent has always been to support our students and staff, to protect their health and safety while they are in our buildings and to provide the best academic experience possible.

“Every person sitting at this table is a parent. 7 of the 8 of us have children enrolled in Bryan County Schools. 3 of the 8 of us have multiple children enrolled in Bryan County Schools. Like you, we are making the same difficult decisions about what to do about back to school. Like you, we have many unknowns to contend with.

“(O)ur priority is protecting the health and safety of our staff and students. While each parent struggles with the best decision for their child, this Board must bear the responsibility of struggling with the best decisions for almost 10,000 children and over 1300 employees. Our job as a Board of Education is to listen to you, reflect thoughtfully on all the information presented to us, and then make the very best decisions that we can for those we have pledged to represent.

“We understand everyone is not happy with our decisions and the ongoing uncertainties. Again, we wish it was not this way. Bryan County Schools prides itself on always putting its best foot forward and thinking and rethinking down to the tiniest detail until we get it close to perfect. COVID has made that impossible.

“So we ask for your grace if you can find some to give. Our intent is to provide an option, albeit imperfect, if you do not feel comfortable sending your child physically back to school. Our other intent is to keep our children and employees as safe and protected as humanly possible and to continue to educate our students under conditions that no one has ever dealt with before.”

Murphy also thanked her fellow board members and the system’s employees for all their hard work. That was a nice touch. And no less heartfelt, I believe.

Unless something’s changed since last time I checked, school starts Aug. 17. Take care of yourself out there.

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