By Julie Eller, co-host of the Live Yes With Arthritis Podcast
To me, there is no greater joy than sharpening a Dixon Ticonderoga Number Two pencil on the first day of school. I have always been the nerdiest of nerds, a happy bookworm who counted down the days of summer until the fateful day when I could return to class. As I think of all the changes our school-aged children and young adults have faced since the start of the pandemic, the one that has weighed most heavily on my heart are those students whose hopeful back-to-school countdown has been prolonged indefinitely.
This year, as we think about returning to classrooms, the conversation is very different than in years past. For those in districts where it is safe to reopen in-person classes, face coverings and bottles of hand sanitizer top school supply lists rather than textbook covers and Crayola markers. For those in areas where it is unsafe to return, parents are faced with the continued challenge of educating their children at home while maintaining a job during these economically uncertain times. Regardless of where you live, the subject of returning to school has become hyperpolitical, adding weight to the already heavy burden families are facing as they consider whether to send their children back to school. This is hard for every family across the nation, but especially for families with children who live with a chronic illness like juvenile arthritis.
Rebecca and I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Heidi Goldsmith, an educational rights attorney with over 20 years of experience, for the Live Yes With Arthritis Podcast. We talked with Heidi about the tools families have at their disposal to make sure their child with JA has an educational rights plan during the pandemic that works for the family. Heidi has insight into how your family can be successful this fall, whether that means setting up a medical 504 plan that provides your family flexibility for in-person schooling, exploring private school options within your district to limit exposure, or even engaging with your school board of education to make your voice heard.
This episode is chock full of insights that can help families Live Yes while they return to school this fall, in whatever way that is safest for them. And for the nerdiest of nerds out there, know you’ve got so many people in your corner hoping to get you back to school safely soon. Keep your faithful countdowns going!