Readers know that I took him to a meet-and-greet on April 1. This week was the payoff.

The agreement was that I would bring Dar to school every day this week at 8:10 and pick him up at 11:10. On Monday, it felt like I was the only one who’d heard about this. I showed up with a freshly showered, sharp-haircutted, newly-clothed Darwin at 8:05 only to wait…for maybe 20 minutes? I saw several fifth-graders that I recognized despite their masks and asked what was going on. They told me that they were lining up early and that fifth grade didn’t enter until 8:25. I wanted to enter the school and ask, but there are big signs posted that parents are NOT to enter Thousand Oaks.

I felt awkward because Dar was unmasked because he won’t wear a mask. On BUSD’s orders, I had had Darwin’s pediatrician sign a form that he can’t wear a mask. I had already emailed that PDF to the proper people as well as printed a copy and left it in Darwin’s bag, but none of that prevents normal people from looking at Darwin and me as though we’re doing something wrong.

That first day, I drifted around asking for Teacher Jenny, whom I’d never seen or met. I don’t know if they invited her to our meet-and-greet or what. I was asking people what she looked like only to hear “uhhhhhhh.” I watched the other fifth-graders get screened and checked and passed through the gate. Finally, around 8:30, I walked with them, presuming they must be meeting Teacher Jenny, whom I did finally meet. She told me she fondly remembered Darwin from years before at Thousand Oaks. Jenny hadn’t met any aide. After walking back and forth between classrooms and offices and such, holding Dar’s hand to keep him from running to the swings, I finally found Dru, from the meet-and-greet, who was willing to take Dar off my hands. Yay!

That day, I returned at 11:10 to find…no one. Again. Eventually one of the BUSD Special Ed leaders walked up holding Dar’s hand. She told me that the aide I’d met at the meet-and-greet never showed up, but that there would be a different arrangement the next day. I was in no way surprised. The district always insisted upon hiring temps as Darwin’s aides, who in my experience came and went like Kleenex, which is one reason we always insisted that the district send Darwin to a more specialized school. However, in this Covid-flavored landscape, we’re taking any port in a storm.

The next day, Tuesday, I arrived at 8:10 to find…nothing again. I met a cheerful, chirpy OT (that means occupational therapist) who would be happy to see Darwin later. Dar and I waited until 8:15. Texted Dru as she had told me to do. Nothing. I decided to make for Teacher Jenny’s room now that I knew who she was. She greeted Darwin warmly but said I needed to go to the office to find help. I expected the warm and always-helpful face of Sylvia but instead got the principal, who wondered why I was on campus. At that point, Dru walked up and took Dar again. I taught her how to add new buttons to Dar’s iPad. I hope this is something she passed on.

At 11:10 that day, Dru introduced me to Dar’s newest aide. She was very nice and apologized for being late, though she noted it was her first day. I was promised that Day 3 would be better than Days 1 and 2.

On Wednesday, for the first time, I was properly met at 8:10. The rest of the week went relatively smoothly. Oh sure, there were little issues regarding supplies, for example his chewy coil, sunscreen, enough M&Ms to keep him happy, and other odds and ends. I appreciated that the new aide was willing to chat with me at the end of Darwin’s day. The good news is they’ve been avoiding tantrums, mostly by keeping him in the swing/playground area. The bad news is he’s barely seen his other classmates. Or is that bad news? I was sorta expecting them to be happy to see him, but I haven’t heard “HEY DARWIN!” from anyone other than adults. Maybe they were happy to be rid of him two years ago? Or maybe everyone is just going through a very strange, very cagey first in-person week after a year apart. (If I were one of these fifth graders, I’d be carefully checking who got taller than me.)

The new aide lasted all the way through Friday! This is more impressive than some of her predecessors.

I think we’re gonna have to call this first week a success! Yay Dar, yay support team.

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