The onset of August usually means it’s time for kids to get ready to head back to school. But 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic has meant that if you plan on sending your kids back, you’ll need to find a way for them to be able to return safely.
“I think for me I am cautious,” one parent told the Amsterdam News—she did not want her name used in this article: “Not for my family but for those who actually choose to return. We’ve already made the decision that our children will not be returning in the fall of 2020 and we have to do remote learning, but I just think that if the president and the governor choose to open schools in the fall, what is going to happen for those students who do return?”
Trump is pushing for public schools to have in-school attendance this fall and has threatened to punish governors who don’t reopen their schools; it’s evident that his push is related to his campaigns’ need to reopen the country’s economy and prop up his re-election platform.
There are also some organizations saying that the risks of the COVID pandemic are outweighed by the benefits of having children return to school. The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded, “that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school” and the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine in a press release that “young children in particular will be impacted by not having in-person learning and may suffer long-term academic consequences if they fall behind as a result. In grades K-3, children are still developing the skills to regulate their own behavior, emotions, and attention, and therefore struggle with distance learning. Schools should prioritize reopening for grades K-5 and for students with special needs who would be best served by in-person instruction.”
New York’s Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza has announced a reopening plan that will be a “hybrid” of in-person and remote learning. Families can choose to have their children do all of their learning from home online, or to do some of their schooling in the school building, and the rest from home. The Department of Education asked families to fill out an online survey stating which they preferred.
Parents are, in the end, the deciders about their kids returning to school. Many say they need to see a consistent community effort to keep coronavirus contagion numbers down before they would believe that their children will be safe.
Veronica Güity, founder/partner of Moms Make It Work (http://momsmakeitwork.com/), said she’s decided to continue doing remote learning at home with her two children, she thinks it’s too soon to send her kids back in the fall.
Güity added that she has been hearing from many worried parents: “We’re talking about preschoolers and even first graders. For you to tell them that they have to keep a mask on all day is not a good plan. We were already worried when our kids go to school and the virus wasn’t up: we had everything else, we had the flu, we had the common cold. And––you know little kids––mothers tell them to wash their hands and to cover their mouths when they sneeze or when they cough, but sometimes, kids just being kids, will accidentally sneeze in another kids’ face. How are we really trying to believe that they’re going to be able to keep kids away from each other—especially when it’s been so long since they’ve seen their classmates or their friends?”
In accord with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing guidelines, a school classroom that would normally hold 27 students should now only contain nine and would need to have hand sanitizers, extra face coverings, some method of doing temperature checks and clear markings to keep children socially distanced.
Güity of Moms Make It Work said she’s been reading about parents who are choosing to form their own community schooling “pods”––they are hiring teachers to come in and teach small groups of kids. “But then what’s the problem here is that there are going to be some who are left behind––mostly Black and Brown kids are going to be left behind because maybe their parents can’t afford to hire a teacher to come into the home and give lessons. So I don’t know, I was doing a lot of thinking about this and if there’s going to be money allocated anywhere why not do it so that everyone could be home schooled? Like, if you want to form these little communities and there are parents that are saying they are willing to provide their basement or use a church to provide these different pods for people in the communities, I feel like that would be safer than the plan that they’re trying to put out now.”