It’s on the minds of parents and students across the country – the return to school. The last several months since about early March have been nothing short of frustrating, worrisome and heartbreaking. For some, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on families, ranging from mild, to severe, to life-threatening.
But with the country reopening in the midst of an uptick in cases, school districts must be ready to safely open their doors and offer options that accommodate all situations, including mask requirements, sneeze guards and in-class lunches for in-person learning and cyber possibilities for those who choose to learn from home.
The choice is personal for each and every student across the country, but the decision is not an easy one to make. One must weigh the benefits and consequences of attending school in person, as well as the social needs of our young people. Here are a few ways you can take the best route for your family members.
Weigh the options. Thoroughly read through the school plan that will likely be proposed by your district in the coming weeks if it hasn’t been already. Mark areas of concern and make a list of pros and cons. Determine if this plan takes all situations into account and considers the well-being of students, teachers, and administrative staff.
Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to district administrators to ask questions. This isn’t an easy time and most are feeling the weight of some heavy decisions. Whatever they propose, it is a lose-lose situation and someone isn’t going to be happy. But they want to hear from you and they want a chance to offer a response to their proposals and actions. It’s likely that if you have a question, another parent does, too, so if something isn’t clear, take it upon yourself to fully understand the plan.
Don’t follow the crowd. Only you know your family’s situation. Do you have an older adult living with you? Does a child have a pre-existing condition that could make it difficult to recover from coronavirus? While it is true that most young people will recover just fine from COVID-19, some may not. Make that final decision based on what is best for your situation. Now is not a time to judge others for their decisions, so the same should be expected of them.
Consider the age group. While there will be no escaping the exposure when someone within the school is positive for COVID-19, at least older students likely have an understanding of the severity of the current health crisis. They have developed healthy habits, like hand washing, sanitizing and staying home when sick, and they have most likely been introduced to the benefits of wearing a mask and socially distancing 6 feet from others. But elementary-aged students don’t have the years of experience. A kindergartener heading to his or her first year of school will have a difficult time keeping a mask over his or her nose and mouth, and doesn’t always have the commonsense to sneeze into an elbow. They are still in the early stages of using hands-on exploration for education. An entirely different set of challenges are presented in a KG or first-grade classroom than for juniors or seniors in high school.