School started several weeks ago and now families across the country may now have an opportunity to reevaluate the distant learning or in-person plan. Some communities are experiencing an uptick in Covid-19 cases while others are not. School buildings are either closing temporarily or going fully remote, where others are just starting a blended/hybrid model.
About half (51 percent) of parents reported they were “extremely” or “very” concerned about sending their children back to school in an Axios/Ipsos poll last month. As the pandemic continues, parents across the nation are weighing the benefits of in-person instruction versus the risk that their child will contract COVID-19 at school and bring it home to the other members of the household.
While some schools have gone 100 percent virtual for the foreseeable future, others are offering in-person instruction, either five days a week or perhaps as an A-day/B-day model, where half the kids come one day and then have virtual instruction the next, and vice versa. If your school offers the option of online versus in-person classes, here are some of the factors to mull over as you decide what’s best for your family in the near future.
What is your school doing to keep kids safe?
The risk of catching COVID-19 is greater in geographic areas with large outbreaks. But even in places with low infection rates, it’s impossible to completely eliminate risk. That being said, there are many things schools can do to minimize the risk, and how well your school is rising to the challenge will likely be a major factor in your decision. Do you trust that your school is doing everything it should be doing to prevent the spread of the virus? Scrutinize your school’s reopening plans. What are its mask, hand-washing and social distancing policies? What is the school doing to ensure proper ventilation, and how often will high-touch and other surfaces be disinfected? Think about whether your school has the staffing, training and supplies needed to implement and enforce its plans on an ongoing basis. And find out what the protocol is if someone in the school tests positive for the virus. Open communication with parents is vital to making everyone comfortable. Is your school hosting online forums to communicate policies and updates, and has your administration been accessible if you had questions or concerns?
Consider your family’s risk factors
The coronavirus is a greater threat to some families than others. Children overwhelmingly have good outcomes, but kids with pre-existing conditions like asthma or immune disorders may be at higher risk for complications. And as parents know all too well from past colds and stomach viruses, when kids get sick, they tend to infect everyone in the household. Some households include elderly relatives, who are at high risk for serious complications and death from COVID-19. Many parents, too, have conditions such as diabetes or high-blood pressure that put them at increased risk. Depending on your family’s unique situation, you may decide the risks of sending your child to school outweighs any benefits.
The benefits of going back
The spring lockdown is fresh in many parents’ memory. After having the kids home all day climbing the walls, you can probably think of several benefits of them returning to school. First, there’s the academic piece. While some kids (and certainly some schools and teachers) did a better job than others at adapting to virtual instruction, most parents would agree that there is no substitute for in-person instruction. Of course, going to school is about more than learning to read or do long division. It gives kids opportunities to interact with their peers and develop socially, and it connects them to services that they may need, such as tutoring, nutritional programs and after-school activities.
Further, working parents rely on school for childcare. Even if you’re working from home because of the pandemic, you may find it overwhelming to supervise and assist your child with online learning while you are trying to do your own job.
There are so many factors to consider, and only you can decide what is best for your child and your family.
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