By Selene Raj
Ethan Joly is an incoming third-grade student who loves school.
As an avid, accelerated reader and a loving friend, he misses his lessons and classmates desperately—but not to the extent of risking his teachers’ lives to go back to school.
Since March, the nine-year-old has been on lockdown at his Coral Springs home with his parents, Lindsay, 34, and Aaron, 35, and his younger sister, Carmen, 4.
While he’s been home, he has a lot of time to think about the COVID-19 pandemic, and the implications of reopening the state and schools before it’s safe—because, as young as he is, he is deeply thoughtful and compassionate, and it’s weighed heavily upon him.
On June 28, he wrote a letter to the board of the Broward County Public Schools asking them to keep schools closed to keep teachers safe, which made headlines after being featured in the Sun-Sentinel.
In the letter, he praised his teachers at Eagle Ridge Elementary School, including Ms. Pizzirusso, Mr. Hand, Coach Azcarate, and Principal Redshaw.
He brought up the challenges of distance learning and how much he missed his friends. But, he said, that doesn’t mean schools should be reopened.
“I learn a lot about science at my school. We should listen to the science that tells us we should stay home safely with our families, to prevent the spread of this deadly novel (that means new) virus,” he wrote.
He said that teachers are superheroes; however, they cannot fight coronavirus and shouldn’t have to.
“Please keep my teachers safe by keeping the schools closed. You would really like them [teachers],” wrote Ethan to the school board.
His mother Lindsay, a local activist, said the letter touched her and reminded her what the essential role teachers play in students’ lives.
“They protect their students, shape their futures and give them the world — and here is a nine-year-old, trying to do that and reciprocate for his beloved educators,” she said.
Ethan believes it’s important to stand up for the right thing and that the right thing is making sure teachers don’t have to go back to school and get coronavirus because that is what will happen if they go back.
“Maybe the school board wasn’t thinking about the teachers and their families, so I wanted to tell them that they should,” said Ethan.
He credits his family for teaching him to be compassionate and brave.
“My mom taught me by taking me to protests and rallies since I was a baby,” said Ethan.
He has a few favorite public officials the trusts and is inspired by and said it is important to have brave, smart, helpful, considerate, and kind leaders in charge.
“I look up to Commissioner Joshua Simmons, State Representative Dan Daley, Nancy Metayer, and Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana because they are young and not afraid to stand up for the right thing, even if people say mean things to them back,” said Ethan.
Since the Sun-Sentinel published his letter, some of his favorite local government officials and leaders have shared it, amplifying his message and celebrating his courage.
His family is bursting with pride, not because of the recognition he’s getting, but because of the empathy he has shown.
“He has always had a heart for righteousness, justice, and kindness, and I am continually inspired by his desire to do good and be the good in an imperfect world,” said Lindsay.
Ethan hopes that his message, and the safety of his teachers, is considered by the school board.
“Online learning should prevail,” said Ethan.
View the full letter below:
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. Born in Trinidad and raised in America, she completed her Master’s in Mass Communications in 2020 and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004. She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.
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