This is what micro-schooling looks like at the Keys Weekly office

I have already issued one unexcused absence. Max Childress, the 12-year-old son of Patti Childress, a Keys Weekly sales executive, decided not to come to the office one day last week. I texted him about the infraction.

You can color me surprised how much I love the miniature virtual school, or “micro school” (see page 12 for more) that is taking place at the Keys Weekly office in Marathon. Childress is joined most days by the young Josh Koler, son of publisher Jason Koler. They are, respectively, seventh and sixth graders.

First, it’s a needed injection of boy energy into the predominantly female office. And frankly, we Weekly folks miss having some of our colleagues in the office such as Anneke Patterson, Christina Valdes and Lesley Aaron. Those three are voluntarily working from home, and their offices are empty.

And so, on the first day of school, Aug. 19, the Keys Weekly started its own. Max in one office and Josh in the other. Between classes, they meet in the hall and play with Velma, my dog. Velma adores the boys and it’s a big selling point to getting her into the car every morning. (Some key words she’s learned recently: “office” and “boys.”) On longer breaks, they take her to the dog park next door to stretch her legs and come back with tales of the new friends she’s met, most notably “Pebbles.” 

Frankly, it’s a perfect solution in my mind. The kids get out of the house, and the employees get to see someone new, for goodness sake. The kids enjoy plenty of perks: Javier Reyes is serving as the IT professional dealing with any connectivity issues that arise. Patti Childress, Velma and I serve as hall monitors, warning the kids to get back in front of their screens at the allotted hour and minute. Our office manager, Char Hruska, is a bit like the school librarian. When things get a little rowdy, she delivers a grandmotherly warning which the boys easily forgive because she plies them with Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies and Hostess Hohos and, on occasion, pizza from Driftwood. 

And, I have acquired a new craft buddy. Max and I have big plans and a full Amazon cart to tackle ornaments (again), googly-eyed plaster of Paris birds and papier mache objects featuring the accomplished articles and advertisements of the Keys Weekly. 

Sadly, not one person has asked me to edit a single essay. But I have high hopes it will happen in the next week. Hint, hint.

P.S. My daughter, Rachel? Does she attend the Keys Weekly School? Unfortunately, no. She has already been subjected to my editing class and feels no need to repeat the experience. Also, she has a hard time getting me to keep quiet when she’s attending a video class. 

God, I miss school. 

‘Busy is best for Betty’ Betty Walker celebrated another birthday recently with a drive-by parade organized by her church. The stylish Marathon resident is an icon, immediately recognizable by the string of pearls around her neck — at the grocery store, when she’s exercising or volunteering. On her birthday, the look was augmented with a tiara. I had the honor of interviewing the nonagenarian (that means someone in their 90s!) six years ago. She told me two things that have stuck in my head: one, her first visit to the Keys was way back when reservations were made through correspondence. She wrote to the former Buccaneer Resort and the hotel wrote back, confirming their stay. Two, she doesn’t complain: “I had a wonderful childhood. I’ve had a wonderful life all the way along. You have to learn to overcome sadness and obstacles because life goes on and you do the best you can with it.” Happy Birthday, Betty. Photo by LYNN VOIT.

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Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.