By Rosemarie Astarita
I am the sole parent of a 13-year-old 8th grader at St. Athanasius Catholic Academy, as well as the board chair, and a working mom.
I shifted to remote working beginning in mid-March as my son, who was in a public middle school in Windsor Terrace, started remote learning. Groceries were bought online. All sports and activities were canceled. (For a child with ADHD, this was a major issue.) No socialization with other people. Lone walks on an empty field were our only outlet. I was fanatical about handwashing and hand sanitizer. My son would cry that I was making him crazy and scared. I wouldn’t let my parents go out!
The most important school year for a middle school child (7th grade) was a disaster. Hearing “I’m hungry” 10 times a day does not lead to meaningful learning or productive work days for moms. If they were in school, this wouldn’t be happening. Help!
The independence my son was learning went out of the window when mom was around 24/7. My productivity was constantly interrupted by redirecting my child back to his computer and school day. If I heard, “I have no more work. Can I play Fortnite?” one more time, I would scream. I often did and I know I wasn’t alone.
The Department of Education was having difficulty getting a plan together for the new school year. The mayor and chancellor chose to politicize our children instead of creating viable options for education and learning. Even after personal tragedy hit our family, I knew my son (and I) could not survive another six months of sharing a remote workspace. One of us wouldn’t survive! Choices had to be made.
I enrolled him in St. Athanasius Catholic Academy where he could participate in person, have time with his friends, and receive the guidance and values that are consistent with a Catholic education.
As the board chair, I knew the safeguards the school had in place to keep our children safe. I saw firsthand the rearranged classrooms, the hand sanitizer and wipes at each door, and in each classroom, the nightly disinfecting for which the school paid thousands of dollars.
We were back on track! St. Athanasius to the rescue! Just as I was finally getting back to working alone (blissfully) with no interruptions, the politicians decided to close us down. The city/state chose to close down our school because the number of COVID-19 incidents in our ZIP code has risen. We did everything right. Cleaned our schools, social distancing, wearing masks, sending data to the Albany to confirm our children/staff were healthy, vetting everyone who entered the school, and minimizing risk to our children, parents, and staff.
How did I feel? Angry, let down, confused and powerless! Why continue to punish our children? How dare they? We did everything right. Why are we paying for the sins of others?
While our teachers are amazing and doing an outstanding job teaching in an untenable situation, our children need to be in school. It is difficult for them to practice kindness, generosity, service and so many more of our Catholic values sitting in front of a computer.
They are missing opportunities that can never be regained. Independence, trust, maturity, responsibility for your actions are merely words that are beginning to have no meaning for them. They must return to school for the sanity of their parents!
I feel like there is a double standard. As Christians, we turn the other cheek and play by the rules. Unfortunately, we live in a city/state/time, where we are the only ones playing by the rules and our children are paying for it.
Where is our Catholic pride? Our “Catholic” Governor needs to wake up. As practicing Catholics we need to stand up and protect and safeguard our values, children, and schools!
How do I feel? You decide.
Rosemarie Astarita is the Board Chair of St. Athanasius Catholic Academy, Bensonhurst.