I spent Friday morning at a family conference at Northfield High School preparing for my son’s freshman year of high school. We entered the building, wearing masks, and started following arrows on the floor that determine traffic direction. Like streets, some halls allow for one-way traffic, others for two-way traffic. We had a helpful conference, discussing steps teachers were taking to organize information for students on digital platforms, what classroom instruction would look like, how online learning had gone for our family, and other important things for a ninth grade boy, like lunch.

Inside the school, COVID related changes are visible everywhere. The media center has computers cordoned off, water fountains are off limits, and a large tent is set up in a courtyard for outdoor instruction. I saw teachers, all wearing masks, making final preparations, still working with colleagues and discussing how to make last minute COVID-related adjustments. Administrators were checking in with teachers, parents, and students.

I’m impressed by the work teachers and administrators have already done to prepare to teach our children safely and well in the midst of COVID-19. As a parent, I’m grateful. So much work has been going on in school buildings throughout the state to prepare, and this creative problem-solving will continue.

I know stress levels are high. I’ve had many conversations with teachers, listening as they’ve talked through the ways they are adapting and the extra work they will need to do. Parents are stressed too, and we’ve had our moments at our house. Parents I’ve talked to are trying to balance schedules, think through child care, support their child’s learning, and make the safe and right decisions for their children. Meanwhile, so much about the virus is still unknown, and it can feel like so much is out of our control.

There is plenty we can control though. We can control how we treat one another. We can do our best to give one another a little bit of grace. We are all carrying a lot of stress, some more than others. Assume that people are doing their best and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Second, we can control our actions that slow the spread of the virus. Staying vigilant with social distancing, washing hands, wearing masks, and getting tested if you experience symptoms are all incredibly important. The best way for us to honor the hard work of educators, health care workers, business owners, and so many more, is to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus.

We can spread the virus even when we don’t know we’re sick. In the same way, we may not know when our careful actions are breaking a chain of transmission, saving a life, keeping our children in school, and keeping businesses open.

The power to control the spread of the virus is in our hands. I encourage us all to do our part.

Todd Lippert, D-Northfield, represents District 20B in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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