As we’re all faced with the red wire blue wire decision this upcoming school year, it’s hard to know what to do. It seems like a black and white answer to a black and white question but it’s not. It’s a shit load of gray in an ever-growing unknown during an election year and we’re all quickly becoming political collateral damage. But every parent wants to know, is it safe for kids to go back to school during a pandemic?
My youngest daughter is supposed to be starting back to school, in person, tomorrow. She’s not for several reasons but mostly it’s because 3 of the 4 people in our house are either immunocompromised or have underlying conditions. Unfortunately, if one of us is exposed, we’re all vulnerable. Add that to the fact that PreK-2nd grade is not required to masks and 3rd-8th are only required to wear masks during transitions and the window for exposure is too big for my comfort.
We’re all in the same boat. Well, we’re all in a boat. I know that too. We’re all faced with the awful decision to decide whether or not to send our kids to school. Well, maybe not. I thought those were the choices but that’s only in my coronavirus boat.
My girls go to a local private school. I’m a work-from-home mom. The Big Guy has a good job as a global business analyst. The girls are well-adjusted and do well in school. Other than Bella having the immune system of a newborn baby, the kids are healthy and happy. We have choices. I knew that if virtual learning wasn’t offered, the decision was still mine. If they didn’t offer what we needed this year, we could choose to explore other options. I also knew that our schools tend to be more flexible than the public school system is. I’m fully aware that my boat is of privilege.
So when it came to making the decision of what to do with my girls for back to school, the only things that I had to consider were if the reopening plan was safe enough (which it was, at the high school), if our family was healthy enough and if we felt that the coronavirus cases were low enough for us to feel safe sending the girls back into the masked, socially distant, sanitized school system that they attend. I don’t feel comfortable, especially after our pediatrician gave me a scared straight conversation about being diabetic and getting the coronavirus. Add that to the fact that my best friend is an ER doctor who gives me personal Coronavirus briefings and we’ve had about 20 family members contract it, 1 die and 1 currently on a ventilator and I just can’t risk it.
But, what about the single moms and dads? What about the homes where both parents have to work outside of the house? What about the special needs kids? How about the kids who don’t have internet or computers at home? What about the kids who don’t have food at home? Or parents who abuse them? What about the families who have no other options? The families who depend on schools to be open as part of the child’s quality of life? What about the kids who are falling behind?
What about the teachers? Their families? What about their health and well-being? What about everyone’s mental health? How will being in school masked and feeling like every single other person is a potential threat of contracting CoVid? How are we all expected to bear the weight of carrying it to someone and killing them?
Is it Safe for Kids to go Back to School During a Pandemic?
It’s so hard. Some school districts aren’t even giving families the choice to do virtually. Our school originally only offered it to children with underlying conditions or who had family members with underlying conditions, and anyone who tested positive or was exposed to CoVid-19. But last Friday, they offered virtual learning options to anyone who doesn’t feel safe sending their children into the schools.
I had already opted in and scheduled Teams meetings with my daughters’ teachers so they could “meet” them virtually. The Vice Principal is coordinating a private verification day and book pick up. The classes will be offered synchronously (live-streamed in real-time). My girls will be socially distancing from our home.
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I’ve seen lots of people struggle with whether or not to send their children into the schools. At first, it seems like an easy decision when deciding between our children’s health and exposure to coronavirus. However, it’s much more complicated than that for many. It’s a gentle balance between their mental and their physical health. I get that kids need friends and socialization. My girls would love to see their friends and gain that charge only time spent with girlfriends can bring but with the risk of contracting CoVid and the unknown of the long term effects, I can’t reconcile my mind to do it not when I have a child who is more vulnerable to catching viruses and less capable of fighting them off. For me, they can make up a year of school and they can spend time with their friends virtually and later but once you contract this virus, none of us knows how it’s going to affect us now or in the future.
Is it Safe for Teachers to go Back to School During a Pandemic??
I’ve also seen lots of posts of people saying teachers are essential workers and they need to do their jobs and go back into the classroom and if they don’t want to, let someone else have their jobs. Yet, we pay them less than fast-food restaurant workers. Many of my friends and family members work in education. People who teach are special. They educate, nurture and care for your children 7 hours of the day. They spend money out of pocket and work well beyond school hours. It is done from a place of goodness and righteousness. It’s not for the money. We couldn’t afford to pay them what they’re worth. During a pandemic, do we really expect them to risk their own health and the health of their families for our sake?
Before I had the girls, I worked in education for over a decade. Last August, I went back to the classroom. I worked with 4 and 5-year-olds. I loved them. Truly loved each and every one of them. Every day I went into that classroom, their parents entrusted those tiny humans into our care and our teachers educated them and molded their brains.
Is anyone safe to go back to school during a pandemic?
In our classroom of 3 educators, I got to be the nurturing, mommy type, because that’s who I am. I spent my days walking into the room and feeling like a rock star with 23 little souls chanting my name, like I was Taylor Swift, I held hands and band-aided booboos. Those kids were my joy and watching them grow and learn was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. However, I also got sick 10 times last year. The last virus, my doctor thinks it was coronavirus, was so bad that I gave my notice. Little people coughed and sneezed directly into my mouth 4 times.
I’ve held little hands covered in boogers and had my arm licked from the hand up to the elbow while walking with a 5-year-old, more times than I can count. I soothed them when their hearts were aching for their mama’s on those first days of school. I held their hair when they vomited from the stomach flu and carried them to the nurse when they were feverish. My point is that as much as teachers love what they do, they shouldn’t have to put their own health in jeopardy to do it, definitely not during a pandemic. If your child can’t follow the rules and wear a mask maybe you should ask yourself, is it safe for kids to go back to school during a pandemic? If they can’t or you don’t feel safe, let them learn virtually.
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So before you judge what any other parent, teacher or child is doing this school year, consider that maybe you don’t know what they’re going through, what they’ve been through or who they’ve lost. Stop expecting your child’s teachers to risk their lives because you don’t believe the pandemic is real. Start wearing your masks and make sure that your children are wearing theirs so we can all get back to living in this new normal safely. The thing is that as long as all of us aren’t doing our part, all of us are in danger and the longer the numbers are going to go up…the longer none of us can get back to safely living our normal lives.
What do you think, is it safe for kids to go back to school during a pandemic? Why or why not?