My name’s Tyler, I’m 35 and have two kids. My wife and I live in Crozet, Virginia which is about 12 miles outside of Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia. We’re a town of about 11,000 people, tons of young families, tons of transplants from the Northern Virginia area, and I’d say middle to upper middle class.  

Schools

I’d like to know some details about your local public schools. Are they in session? How many days a week? What are the restrictions that the students must follow? Have classes been cancelled due to discovered COVID infections?

If you’re more familiar with a local private school, I’d love to hear how they are dealing with restrictions along with anything you may know about the public schools as a point of comparison.

If you don’t have kids in any school, simply call a local school and ask. You could also speak to a friend, neighbor, or relative who has kids to find out more details.

Public schools in our county just went back to in-person teaching this past week.  They’re 4 days, with different days depending on the grade.  Kids are masked, can’t really do a lot of socializing, pretty standard precautionary measures.  Counties around us – aka more conservative counties – have been in school all year with the same measures and from what I understand, have had no major issues.  To be fair, Albemarle County is a very large county with a *lot* of wealth disparity between students, so I think they hedged their bets against that.  We have not had the teachers’ union fights I have seen happening in other parts of the country.

My kids are young enough that we haven’t had to deal with it thankfully.  They go to a private preschool and have been since September.  They’re in person from 8:30 to 12:30 every day and spend a lot of it outdoors.  The school was already very small so she didn’t have to do a lot of major changes to her systems, and the owner of the school was very gung ho about opening in the fall.  It’s been great and we are so grateful that our kids are able to go.  

Related side note – Charlottesville City Schools shut down their school system for 2 years during Integration, which still has lasting effects today.  Hence, there are an inordinate amount of private schools around the area, a lot of which were founded/expanded during that time.  I know a full range of folks that send their children to private schools around here, and there have been no issues for them going to school during Covid.  I even know families where the parents work in the public school systems that pulled their kids out and are sending theirs to private school.  It’s obviously very much pay to play, but one common theme seems to have come up – their kids were very behind scholastically once they got acclimated to the private school.  And that’s in our middle class bubble with parents who care about their children’s education – I can’t imagine what it’s like for kids that don’t have the same support system at home.  These effects are going to be horrible for kids which will be adults before most people realize.  

On top of that, anyone I talk to with high school age children say their kids are just completely disengaged in what the overarching ideals of high school are.  They’ve spent a lot of years working towards prom, sports achievements, experiences with friends, getting into college, etc, and it seems to me like this past year has just crushed all those hopes and dreams, and why blame them for checking out?  

Religious Gatherings

Most churches I know of are making do with outdoor services in nice weather and online services otherwise.  While this is the South, I do think it’s a bit of an anomaly in terms of religion.  We have a very small Jewish or Muslim population, but the Unitarian Church is quite big in Charlottesville proper, as are a lot of Episcopalian churches.  I can’t say we’ve seen the backlash towards closures like some areas of the South.  My wife is Catholic and our kids are baptized Catholic but I can’t say we’re practicing currently.  

One thing I have noticed is the usage of churches as more like community centers for food donations, meals, etc.  Especially early on in 2020, it was encouraging to see that people could overlook religious stigma to help provide a service for people who needed help.  This was probably March 2020 before shit hit the fan?  I grew up in Southwest Virginia so churches to me have always been more akin to community centers than sacred places of worship if that makes sense, and it was interesting to see that change last year.  Maybe people still feel that way?  I’m not sure. 

Movie Theaters

Ok, so I know Sonny Bunch, he’s a movie guy and great Twitter feed and I love what he writes about – we were in the same fraternity in college, and though he was a few years older than me, he’s always been great and always down to drink bourbon.  Anyways, I know he’s written ad nauseum on this topic and I 100% agree with him.  It is so dumb the way theaters have taken a beating this past year and I really don’t understand why?  It’s almost like they saw the writing on the wall and decided to just call it a day or something.  Or they have terrible lobbyists or something?  I have no idea.  

I say this because of two occasions:

My wife and I saw Tenet at the Alamo Drafthouse here at the end of September for our anniversary.  It was awesome.  The movie was fine?  Very confusing, but it’s definitely a movie you have to see in a theater.  Tickets were pre-paid with seat assignments and pre-ordered food.  It was us and one other person in the theater and maybe 2 people working in the whole place.  Literally zero concerns for “safety” and compared to eating a restaurant, seems way “safer” to me.  

When my son turned 4 this past November, we looked into renting out a theater at our  Alamo Drafthouse for a birthday party with him, some of his buddies, and their parents.  We looked into it last year but it was quite cost-prohibitive, but it was quite affordable this year obviously.  It was awesome.  We watched a Minions movie, ate pizza, drank beer and the kids got to run around a theater and the parents got to hang out.  Literally no complaints and it probably cost us 300 bucks maybe to give everyone a nice day out – it would’ve easily been 600 or more last year.  

Anyways, it’s fucking stupid the way theaters have taken the brunt of this and I dunno what to make of it.  Since we have young kids, going to the movies is maybe a twice a year treat for us (Avengers and Star Wars movies mainly, big blockbuster stuff), but that doesn’t mean we don’t love the experience and in many cases would prefer that to most other date activities.  Especially with places like Alamo and Violet Crown (which we’re one of 4 cities in the country to have) where you can drink beer and eat food while watching a movie, it’s awesome!

Private Food Prep In a Pandemic

So I’m a chef by trade and have a private chef business.  I worked in restaurants for years but transitioned into this as my family grew and I needed better work/life balance.  I work privately for some families and I do private in-home dinners for guests that want that.  As this is a huge area for tourism/weddings/bachelorette parties/etc, I end up doing a ton of work in vacation rental properties around the area.  It’s great, I lost a ton of business last spring like everyone else but then come August this past year I’ve been slammed.  People are clamoring to do anything and I provide a service that’s a little more intimate than a restaurant experience.

So what I’ve noticed – and I saw that you discussed this topic on your Twitter feed this week – is that it’s almost like if you have the money to pay your way out of Covid, you can do so.  I’ve had people tell me not to worry about wearing a mask in their home (which is fine with me) to people telling me that I’m the first person they’ve been in close contact with in a year.  But regardless, they’re paying a premium for my services that most people can’t afford.  If you consider a bachelorette party of 12 girls traveling into town from all over the country getting together booking me for a dinner – that’s probably considered “unsafe” for me to work it, right?  I’m willing to take that risk, as I’m in pretty good health and I want to grow my business.  I’m not scared of Covid the way some are, and I have been fortunate enough to get business because of that.

Along the same lines as the movie theaters, I think it’s very dumb what restrictions have been placed on restaurants around the country.  Virginia hasn’t been especially strict, I’d say right down the middle, but it’s still detrimental to the industry as a whole.  There’s a way to “safely” serve guests in dining rooms but everything seems to come back to mask virtue signaling.  I’ve seen restaurants get absolutely roasted over the fact that they saw a cook working without a mask on, as if that has any more way to get them sick over the multitudes of food-borne illnesses that can be caused by so many different factors.  To me, this past year has shown what the general public thinks of the restaurant/foodservice class, and it’s quite bleak and depressing for an industry that’s given me so much professionally.  

I can’t help but think Covid is going to create some sort of class structure between the people that have money to spend to not wear a mask, socially distance, etc vs. those that don’t have that money or work in said service class.  I’ve always been sensitive to my profession being considered lesser than because of historical stereotypes, so maybe I notice it more, but I wonder what’s going to come out of it on the other side.  At this point, I’m all for automated restaurants and then let people like myself make fancy food for folks in their own homes.  But that’s another whole can of worms.  

I’d say restaurants are doing okay here, but breweries and wineries are totally gang busters.  We live in a region known for wine and beer and as many of them have huge outdoor spaces, they’ve been slammed for the better part of the year, and I’ve heard of some having their best years ever in 2020, even without doing large private events like weddings.  I personally think come April or May, people are going to *wile* out around the country, and especially in high tourism areas like ours.  But I worry about the staff having to deal with that aspect of it because people generally treat service staff like shit.  

Some people wear masks outside, definitely on UVa Grounds because it’s basically mandated, but outside of that, you see it from time to time.  We’re fortunate to have enough large outdoor spaces that it’s not a huge deal.  I don’t get the outside mask wearing especially during exercise, but whatever helps people sleep at night is fine by me.  

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