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Virtual or in-person classes: What’s best for your family?

September 23, 2020

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 make your decision.


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 in 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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