“What’s that yellow band on your wrist for?” This is what the six-year-old in the grocery store line asked me this evening. Kids tend to cut through all the political correctness and get right to the point. You may notice staff members at Hazelwood Elementary wearing colored bands on either their wrists or name tags. These colored bands help identify staff members’ comfort level with proximity to others during the pandemic. We certainly still recognize that the current orders from the Governor require both social distancing and masks for everyone that enters the building. As we progress through the year, we are hopeful that students can return and that some of the safeguards that are currently in place can be relaxed. As that happens, this is how our staff will communicate their comfort level with others that enter the building. I want to be clear that this isn’t a license for our team to act outside of the current set of expectations for schools. We just want to make sure that our staff members clearly communicate their comfort level and where their personal space should begin.
The green band is worn by staff that have the highest level of comfort interacting with others. They have evaluated the risks associated with the disease and decided which precautions are necessary for them and their family. The yellow band is worn by staff who are still a bit hesitant and want to continue maintaining their physical distance in most cases. The red band is the most restrictive. It is worn by staff that wish to keep their distance from others with very few exceptions. So, Green means “Go,” Red means “No,” and Yellow is somewhere in the middle. If you are on campus, you will see a variety of colored bands. In some cases, we have teachers and teacher assistants working in the same rooms that have different levels of comfort with physical proximity. We believe that you can have different opinions about the pandemic and still respect others and work together to educate students.
These bands came in midweek, and I walked around the school, handing out bands to members of our school community. As I did, I was surprised by some of our staff’s choices, some that I thought would be one color chose another. I was surprised by some of the team members that requested a red band. We all work around individuals that may put on a good act, but underneath there is still a significant amount of anxiety working in close proximity to other individuals. It has been a healthy exercise for our staff to see and understand how to best interact with their colleagues and respect their boundaries.
On day two, a staff member came into the office and asked if it was Ok to take a red band. She had chosen a yellow one the day before and explained that she was yellow on most days, but today she needed a red one. For many of us, our comfort level with the pandemic changes from day to day. So, several staff members have multiple colors in their desks for this exact reason. Some days we just need to be yellow or red when most days we might be green. Whether it is wearing red every day or only on some days, we had to establish that it is ok to not be ok. It is also a great reminder that these same emotions, thoughts, and ever-changing comfort levels are just as present for students as for staff. If we have adult staff that have a heightened level of anxiety with social distancing due to the pandemic, then is it fair to expect that our students will experience these same emotions.
You might ask if we are going to provide bands for students when they return. The answer is, “No for Now.” Here is why. We feel it is both our responsibility and our charge to do everything possible to protect our students from exposure. With that in mind, we are treating all students as though they are wearing a red wrist band. This is the safest option we have right now.
I could not ask for a better group of people to serve with than the staff at Hazelwood Elementary. As I said, we have staff choosing to wear a variety of colored bracelets. Some red. Some green. Some yellow. Most days I choose to wear a yellow band. However, if I am honest, there are days I find myself wanting a red band. Staff have started to recognize the comfort level of others and even ask questions like, “Am I too close? Do I need to move back?” I have had staff walk into my office and walk up to my desk only to apologize and step back. We want to do a great job of focusing on others’ comfort level as much our own. I love our willingness to focus on others, especially our students. We are just as ready to have students back in the building as many of you are. We want to do it safely, and we want to make sure that we can sustain having them in the building without increasing the number of community exposures. When the time comes, know that Hazelwood is a judgment-free zone, just as we have agreed that it is ok to be comfortable or uncomfortable with this pandemic, it is also ok to want your child to be in school or to wish to keep them home for remote instruction. We recognize that some of our parents have a comfort level of green right now. For others, the comfort level is yellow. For others, it is red. It is our responsibility to build your trust so that you can have your students back in the building when you are ready. Regardless of your choice as a parent, know that we will do everything we can to help your child continue to grow into a responsible, respectful lifelong learner. We look forward to working with you to make that happen!
In Our Togetherness, Castles Are Built!