Tamar Krongrad
Tamar Krongrad
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Why schools must open and stay open

If months of protecting our children at home with ample screen time, schnitzel, and brownies has taught us anything, it's that kids need to be around other kids
Israeli students return to school in Tel Aviv on April 18, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90 /File)
Israeli students return to school in Tel Aviv on April 18, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90 /File)

Ding! A WhatsApp message appears on my cellphone. A local Tel Aviv friend, with two school-aged children, sends the latest news: “Health Ministry to reconsider school openings as COVID cases spike.”

You see, this is what we do these days, we parents of school-aged children. We pore over the latest news, and allow our blood pressures to rise and fall, as we seek an understanding — or even the slightest indication of what our lives, and our children’s lives, will look like in the next month (and I say month because, let’s face it, who can plan for more than one month at a time these days).

My heart squeezes at the mere suggestion that the gods-that-be — the ones who see fit to flip us around from one end of chaos to another, with no more than a few days’ notice at best — will decide to keep the Israeli schools closed on September 1. Or even if they do open — as they are currently expected to do — will the gods-that-be understand how important it is to keep them open?

Can we talk about normal adolescent development for one minute? Can we focus on development years that we will never get back? I look outside my window, and admire the view: my 13-year-old, who has spent more time this past year than I would like to admit attached to his mobile devices, is drawing. Drawing. Can I say that again? The words give me such pleasure: he is Drawing. And Drawing of his own volition, without any prodding from me. An act that would have seemed so ordinary, so commonplace two years ago, all of a sudden seems like manna from heaven. My creative kid, who spent most of last year cooped up and isolated, confined to his home with his core family, is finally drawing again.

My kids lived out the Corona Year in relative comfort. A spacious home, with lots of schnitzel, brownies, and plenty of warm loving care. I’ll just briefly acknowledge that one screaming Facetime fit I had in a one-sided conversation with my parents: “The children are Not. In. School. Do you get that? Not. In. School” — but relatively speaking, my drawing son’s cocoon was indeed warm and fuzzy.

And despite his blessings, he had not drawn since the coronavirus hit. Why the change, you ask? (I am glad you asked). I see only one reason. This past month, he spent all month with kids his own age, at an overnight camp, where he socialized, socialized, and socialized. This thirst for socialization was not lost on the head of the camp, who, in one of his updates to the parents, wrote to us: “One of the big things we noticed this summer is that our campers were two years older physically, while, at the same time, for many of them, their social development had not kept pace….. I noticed that campers needed to learn or relearn how to navigate friendships and social situations.” All of the kids needed this socialization — and, thankfully, my kid got his drawing groove back.

Now I am left only to pray to the gods-that-be that good sense will prevail, and that schools will open on September 1. It is not just my kid. It is all of our kids. They have all been deprived for too long and are desperate to get back to school. There is no justification for any other flipping. If schools do not open, or if they open only to be closed again, we will have failed, and the Children of the Book can weep.

About the Author
Tamar Krongrad heads the Commercial Cross Border Practice at Tadmor Levy, one of Israel's leading law firms, and is co-founder of 'Women in Law,' a group of English-speaking female attorneys who professionally support each other.
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