WEST FARGO — Ask any teacher about going back to school and they’re sure to admit having anxious dreams leading into the new year.

But for teachers like Sarah Dotzenrod, a visual arts instructor with West Fargo Public Schools, the nights have been especially sleepless leading up to this fall's restart.

“This is normally the time I begin having my 'back-to-school nightmares,'" Dotzenrod says — but in a heartfelt post to social media, she started by admitting the dreams have come even sooner.

“This summer, my nightmares started much earlier than normal and have become a lot more morbid considering the current circumstances,” Dotzenrod says.

iStock / Special to The Forum
iStock / Special to The Forum

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And while the art she creates with her students may go a long way toward connecting the teacher and her pupils, there’s still a risk to her physical well-being.

“It's hard to sleep when you know you'll be working directly with families experiencing every instability imaginable while yet expecting to lose lives,” she says.

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Schools across the area have come up with plans to reopen with partial or full in-class attendance starting this fall.

West Fargo Superintendent Beth Slette stressed student and staff health as the reasoning behind the hybrid school restart proposal in a recent Forum article ahead of the Aug 10. West Fargo School Board vote.

In the almost 100-page Return to Learn Plan, Slette states, “We recognize some concepts and actions may incite strong opinions about what the school should or should not do.”

“We simply ask that our community remains respectful of the work that is being done; if we become divided, it is our students and staff that will suffer,” she goes on to say.

A similar sentiment was echoed in the post by Dotzenrod, encouraging anyone who has kids or spends time around them to think twice about what their kids are exposed to amid so many unknowns.

“All the arts are going to act as such a crucial lifeline to learners this year especially,” Dotzenrod says. “In our area schools, we have the widest reach, we will have exposure to more students and their stories, but that will come with more risk to both our mental and possibly physical health.”

“Makalya” is part of a student series by Sarah Dotzenrod. Special to The Forum
“Makalya” is part of a student series by Sarah Dotzenrod. Special to The Forum

Dotzenrod’s post got an outpouring of support from fellow art educators like Kelli Sinner, admitting her "back-to-school" nightmares started the day after summer school ended this year.

“The weight put on educators during the pandemic is going to have lasting effects on a profession that for many of us is a calling,” Sinner responded.

“Hang in there — all we can do this year is our best. We have to take care of ourselves the way we would normally care for our students.”

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.