I didn’t think I would be adding to my “Back to School” series until next year when my oldest goes to Scuola Media (Middle School). However, Covid-19’s plans to totally screw up the entire world means I get to document another exciting moment in our lives.
February 21, 2020 was the last time my girls were physically in school. The last time they sat at their desk. The last time they ate lunch. The last time they heard that bell ring and for some, it was the last time they saw their friends and teachers in person. Every week we were told that school would only be postponed by a few days until eventually we were in full lockdown and then realized that going back in person was NOT happening.
It’s been 7 long months but the Italian government made it clear that kids HAD to go back to school. We all suffered during lockdown but the kids probably had the worst of it. As cases went down and lockdown restrictions were lifted, people slowly went back to work. Our kids did not. They had to continue doing Didatica a Distanza (Distance Learning). As summer came and the ability to travel became a reality, cases started going back up and fear of not going to school started up. Mandates started up that between the hours of 6pm and 6am, when everyone would be out enjoying nightlife, you had to have your mask on.. because “We must get these cases down. Children need to go back to School.”
So here we are, the last weeks of summer and yet no news of what we need to do or what is expected. Unlike the US, our Covid rules and regulations come from the Minister of Health and is for the entire country. It then trickles down and each school has to put everything into place. Some imposed more rules than others. While I do believe they are doing the right thing, we need to be realistic and because it’s Italy, things are always changing and rules will never be entirely followed through.
Normally we would have gotten our school supply list in June when the teachers handed our report cards or at the end of August. However, even the teachers didn’t know what was going on or what they needed to do so our lists were received in 3 ways:
3rd grade– I got it during the last week of August while we were on vacation.
5th grade– 1 week prior to the start of school.
2nd grade– Friday night we were given a short list which was also confirmed on Monday when they got home from school.
I did my best and got most of their materials like pens, pencils, markers, etc.. before hand because that is standard school stuff. Their books had been ordered and we were waiting for their arrival and basically just needed to know about notebooks and their hygiene bags.
In my previous posts, I’ve written about each kid having a bag with a change of clothes, just in cases accidents happen. This year, Covid has changed things up.
Hygiene bags now include:
- Your own personal roll of toilet paper
- Your own personal soap * 3rd & 5th grade only
- Hand gel * 5th grade only
- roll of paper towels *5th grade only
- Sanitizing wipes *2nd grade
- Hand towel *3rd grade
The difficult part is that every teacher wants something different and in different bags. Some say a cloth bag is fine, others want those nylon drawstring bags. As someone who likes to be proactive and prepare ahead of time, this was giving me major anxiety. Not only were we parents stressed, the teachers themselves were also left to wait for news as well.
On Saturday, September 12th, 2 days before school was to start, we had been sent 28 pages of rules, regulations, protocol and forms to read. Yes, TWENTY EIGHT PAGES. I counted. Included in the pages were protocols on what to do when your child gets sick at home vs. school. The anxiety of thinking of what we were supposed to do was all too much. We were initially told that anyone who had any kind of symptoms that could be related to Covid would have to get clearance by a Dr and present a medical certification to be allowed back to school. By the end of the week, we had a new form.
Now, when a child has any kind of symptom that could be associated with Covid, our first step is to call the Dr and determine exactly what is going on. A few weeks ago, Valentina and I had participated in the Torino Photo Marathon. The weather was sunny and breezy but by the next morning, Valentina woke up with a stuffy nose. Not wanting to have teachers call me the next day, I kept her home. I called the pediatrician and was told that because she had “cold” she would have to stay home 48 hours after her last symptom. Monday night she was back to normal. She never had a fever, cough, sneezing or any other symptom, however she still had to stay home and miss 3 days of school. On Wednesday, I had to call the pediatrician again and go over everything again. I was then given the ok to use the ‘Autodichiarazione’ or ‘Auto declaration’ form so she could go back to school.
Another change is that EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING. I have to take the girls temperature, fill out a form and give it to the teachers. That means another added expense and buying a thermometer gun.
Instead of dwelling on what we can’t change, we just have to take a deep breathe, move forward and laugh at what seems to be the most insane, surreal and unforgettable moments of 2020.
This post is part 5 of an on going ‘Back to School’ series that I started to compare school in the U.S and in Italy. If you’d like to check out the previous posts, click below: