Coronavirus: Goodbye from the school gates in Worthing

Herald & Gazette content editor Katherine Hollisey-McLean was at her daughter’s Worthing primary for an emotional pick-up today, as schools close indefinitely.

Content editor Katherine Hollisey-McLean with daughter

Normally, the pick-up from the school playground on a Friday is a jovial one, filled with excited chat about plans for the weekend. But not this one.

As the coronavirus outbreak tightens its grip on the UK, today schools in our area and across the UK closed indefinitely to all but the children of vital key workers and those who are most vulnerable.

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When we walked out of the school gates this afternoon, we were saying goodbye to each other for weeks, possibly months – as well as to the normality of life as we know it.

I’m not ashamed to say I shed a tear. After a week spent trying to comprehend the enormity and complexity of this global crisis, it was all but inevitable at such a symbolic moment.

I already knew that the school community extended way beyond the classroom, but if this unprecedented pandemic has any kind of upside, it’s cemented just how valued the friendships made both in the classroom and on the playground are.

My daughter is in year one so we’re relatively new to the school experience, but she’s already made such strong bonds with so many of her classmates. My heart breaks at the thought that they now may not be able to see each other for months.

I’ve made great friendships with many of the parents, too, and I’ll really miss the playground camaraderie (and the occasional night in the pub!).

For my family personally, the closure of the schools brings a tough decision.

As a journalist and with a husband as a teacher, we fall into the Government’s definition of key workers.

Going by the latest guidance, our daughter and nursery-age son qualify to continue going to their respective settings to enable us to continue to work.

If allowed, we’ll continue to send them, but knowing it will mean their ability to socially distance is greatly reduced weighs heavily.

And while there will be some comfort in the familiarity of the school itself, just what a school day will look like in the midst of this difficult time is still unknown.

Whatever your situation is, whether you are a key worker or face trying to educate your child from home, we wish you the best.

Let’s all hope it won’t be long before the excellent schools we have here in Worthing and beyond will be back to business as usual.

But for now, as editor Gary Shipton said in our newspapers this week, we want to focus on the good that is happening in our communities.

So, please do continue sharing stories about the unsung heroes and community champions with us. And let us know your experiences of having your children at home.