IS IT SAFE TO SEND OUR KIDS BACK TO SCHOOL?!

Choosing whether to send your kids back to school or not can be a really difficult decision. For many the decision has already been made by the school districts and distance learning continues for the fall. But at some point, we all will have the option for our children to have in-person instruction again. Of course, I want to be optimistic and believe a cure is coming sooner than later or this pandemic miraculously goes away, but in the small chance there is no movement on COVID-19, and the devastation lives on, what’s best for our kids comes into question. Especially for working parents who cannot afford to stay home or those who do not have the option of working from home to “home school” your children throughout the pandemic. It really does take a village to raise our children in these cases, but those you usually love and trust the most, may be the most vulnerable and unable to offer the support needed.

This situation is definitely a “catch 22” as they say. We are in a no win situation. The in-person school environment provides a place that not only helps our children with educational direction or instruction, but it also supports children’s emotional, physical and social development and skills. This is done on a schedule and in a structured way children look forward to, recognize and know well. Not to mention, it may be the only opportunity some children have for physical education. The amount of screen time from watching shows, movies and playing video games have escalated to unbelievable extremes for our children over these past few months. Our children can barely go outside to play safely. As well, there are other services offered that many families rely on like free food. The school meal programs can be so vital. I know some may say well just eat at home, but these additional meals, even something as simple as PB&J, just may not be in a family’s budget. Additionally, some schools offer mental health services. In-person instruction can provide a place of continued safety. At times, children do need to feel safe speaking with others outside of their home. We all know, we don’t always feel “comfortable” discussing everything with our parents, especially if its about our parents. Guidance counselors and teachers offer that. Plus we don’t want our children feeling socially isolated. The in-person environment may be the only place where children get to interact with other children. The lack of building interpersonal and communication skills could be detrimental to their emotional wellbeing. In-person instruction provides special services that help children mentally, physically and emotionally, in ways that I’m not certain children receive through distance learning. Student success is so important and a lack of access to these types of support, may have great long term effects on our children’s educational outcomes and wellbeing.

However, with the alarming rate of COVID-19 cases, sending our children back to in-person instruction seems so dangerous. I wouldn’t. I keep hearing kids get infected with coronavirus at much lower rates than adults; children rarely get severely ill from COVID-19; children don’t spread COVID-19 disease like adults; there is no evidence closing schools will control transmission. But children do indeed and have gotten infected. We all know children are little germ carriers. They share these germs with their peers and families. Regularly, when my daughter got sick, so did I. She would recover quickly and I would still be on the floor days later but my point is in the same household or environment, the likelihood of contaminating each other is strong. Is it worth that risk? Is it worth taking that chance? When I weigh the odds of living or potentially dying, it’s not!

So distance learning has to be a suitable option for students continued educational success. The programs offered need to be structured and well planned out though. All children need to have access to the suitable devices with internet services and technology, so they can part take in the daily live instruction. Plus have the necessary supplies needed to complete the independent and online work given by their teachers. Without these necessary supplies or a set educational game plan, children may be easily distracted and not motivated to continue or even try. We definitely don’t want that. It’ll lead to conflict in the household. Which leads me to point out, parents willingness to be supplemental teachers and practice and maintain patience and commitment is also another major factor to be considered. Yes, I said practice patience. We all love our children but distance learning has tested boundaries and families will need to find ways to reduce and alleviate stressors and anxiety build up from distance learning.

The distance learning platform can be accomplished in a positive and structured way. Parent involvement will be key. So ask questions and ask for what your children need to be successful at home. Remember this will take a real partnership between the schools and families. Thankfully there are also numerous learning resources and tools online, in addition to the program your children’s school may provide. Parents look for those resources. It’ll be worth it for your children’s success and your continued peace of mind, until it is safe for our children to return to in-person instruction.

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