Parents' COVID revolt: A lesson in moderation – New York Daily News – New York Daily News

After schools closed in most parts of America in March 2020, open schools parents nationwide were called crazy and sometimes even racist for wanting a rapid return to normalcy. We were accused of not believing in science, of being selfish and lazy, and we were attacked and maligned for daring to speak up and challenge the prevailing COVID-19 narrative.
But amidst this nightmare, something wonderful happened. Parents from all over the country came together and discovered that there is much more that binds us together as parents than divides us as political party members. This parent movement, born from resisting authoritarian, anti-child COVID-19 restrictions and mandates, is a path forward for moderate Americans who want a government that listens to us and solves our problems.
We experienced this firsthand when in early 2021 a group of “right-wing” Pennsylvania parents reached out to a group of “liberal” parents in New York City, offering help. That was how the two of us met — Clarice, a Pennsylvania Republican and Natalya, a New York City Democrat who had previously advocated for healthy school food and food allergy awareness.
Daniel Lee walks his son Frankie to the first day of kindergarten at Yorkville Community School during the first day of classes for New York City public schools Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022 in Manhattan, New York. (Barry Williams/for New York Daily News)
That first Zoom meeting, Clarice asked: “You all are Republicans, right?”
“No, we are Democrats,” was the answer. Would that be a problem?
“Not at all,” Clarice assured. “We are all fighting for our kids. Let’s do this together.” And so, like many other parents across the country, we quickly bridged the divide and came together to try to reopen our children’s schools. The hundreds of miles and political differences quickly faded to nothing. This was about our children and their right to a free and fair public education and a normal, happy childhood.
Turns out, liberal and conservative, red and blue, parents across party lines were all dealing with similar issues: struggling to reopen schools in the midst of government overreach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, watching their children suffering from political theater and blatant money grabs. America’s children were racking up incalculable long-term damage from a lack of structure, social interaction and normalcy, and parents knew they had to do something about it.
The movement was just starting. Many of the most active moms and dads knew nothing about organizing. What was abundantly clear was that kids were being harmed and desperately needed to be back in school.
Winter 2021 in New York City was bleak. Public schools were still functionally closed, with most children attending in a hybrid model, jutting between dismal Zoom “school” and masked, distanced, constrained in-person classes. Schools were shutting down for the arbitrary “two-case rule,” and children across the country were being routinely tested and quarantined for 10 days at a time. While schools were technically “open,” the myriad new restrictions rendered them unrecognizable and impenetrable — fortresses keeping joy, wonder and parents out.
Winter 2021 didn’t bring a functional restoration of Pennsylvania’s schools, either. Parents dreaded Sunday evening calls, pushing reopening off once again, without consideration for how they would secure last-minute child care. Nationwide, 33% of women left the workforce. Some families were subsequently forced to do the unthinkable and leave their less-than-latchkey-ready kids at home alone so they could earn a living.
Meanwhile, everything else began to reopen — bars, restaurants and gyms. Anxiety, depression, juvenile crime, suicide and child abuse were all on the rise, yet adult wants were prioritized over children’s needs.
And while schools are “open” now, normalcy — true pre-pandemic normalcy — has still not materialized. Pandemic learning loss has left children behind, with the poorest most adversely affected. School masking is still surprisingly common among students and teachers. Parent-teacher conferences remain virtual, per union contracts, disrupting an essential channel of communication and connection that had previously been sacrosanct.
Seeing eye-to-eye on COVID restrictions and school closures can’t fix all of our problems, nor does it erase real differences of opinions on contentious issues like abortion or how to best serve LGBTQ youth in schools. But through our collaboration on shared goals, we are learning how to de-polarize the conversation, opening good-faith channels of dialogue, and getting to know each other as human beings. As laser-focused open schools moms and dads, we aim to put children first.
The news would have us believe that most Americans are extreme partisans, but the reality is that many more are actually closer to the middle, sharing the same core values and allegiances to family and community. This is why this new parent movement is so important: It creates dialogue and dissolves partisan borders. Politicians would be wise to listen closely.
Schillinger, a Pennsylvania Republican, is the executive director of Back to School USA, a conservative superPAC dedicated to education. Murakhver, a New York Democrat, is the co-founder of Restore Childhood, a non-profit dedicated to ending non-evidence-based COVID mandates for children and restoring athletics, art and academics across the United States.
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News


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