I kept my kids home for all of last school year. Schools around here were opened, but with none of us vaccinated, no teachers or school staff vaccinated, and the pandemic raging on, I just didn’t feel comfortable sending my children into school buildings. It wasn’t easy, and my younger son found virtual learning absolutely miserable (we switched to homeschool, which was much better), but it was the right decision for our family. I don’t have regrets.
I was one of those people who made my decision to keep my kids home last year based partly on the fact that I just didn’t really trust the schools to be able to keep my kids safe from COVID. Yeah, I knew masks usually worked, but I didn’t really think kids would be able to keep them on. And I was skeptical that the other measures—like distancing and ventilation—would be able to be enforced, or that they’d work well enough to curb the spread of the virus.
However, I was (mostly) pleasantly surprised to find that the measures that our school district implemented seemed to work quite well. Most kids who caught COVID last year did so outside of school; there was little to no spread of COVID inside the classroom. The measures they implemented seemed to work, and research from the CDC about COVID school safety reflected that, too. With proper protective measures in place, schools can be a low risk environment when it comes to COVID.
Now, I know that “low risk” doesn’t mean no risk, which is why I was still hesitant to send my kids to school last year. But by the end of last school year, my thinking about the matter changed somewhat.
First, my husband and I became fully vaccinated. So I knew that if one of my children brought COVID home to us, we would likely survive. Secondly, most of the teachers in my kids’ school were vaccinated: protecting them was one of the reasons I had never fully felt comfortable sending my kids last year. Finally, my teen son became fully vaccinated by the middle of June.
So really, there was only my youngest son who wasn’t vaccinated yet. And by the end of June, a huge swath of adults in my community had been vaccinated, and our COVID numbers were super low here. Between that, and the fact that masking and ventilation had really worked well last school year, I was starting to feel that sending my youngest back would be a low risk situation I felt comfortable with.
That is, until Delta came into play.
Can I just say how much I fucking hate Delta? Let the f-bombs fly here, because I really have nothing nice to say about that fucking variant.
Delta, which spreads 2-3 times as fast as older strains of COVID. Delta, which seems to be infecting fully vaccinated people more often. Delta, which is causing another huge wave of COVID throughout America. Delta, which has caused my county’s COVID positivity numbers to quadruple in the past month.
Delta, which has caused me to wonder if sending my unvaccinated child into a school building is going to be safe, even if he’s all masked up…
Truly, fuck you, Delta. Fuck you totally and completely.
Now, in many ways, I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t live in a state that has prohibited schools from mandating masks. Although my state has not yet released their COVID school guidelines, they usually follow CDC guidelines, which include recommendations that all unvaccinated kids mask up.
My hope is that my state (and at least my school district), will take it a step further and require everyone to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. That seems like the smart thing to do, with the way that Delta is spreading to both vaccinated and unvaccinated folks. Not to mention the fact that without verification of vaccination status, how on earth are we supposed to be sure the unmasked folks in a school building are really vaccinated?
Still, even if my kids’ school district adheres to some of the same safety standards that kept schools safe last year, how do I know they’ll work against Delta? And what about all those kids whose parents have become even bigger anti-maskers than before? Are they gonna encourage their kids to take their masks off in school in protest?
Last year, it seemed like whatever you thought of masks, most parents thought that kids wearing them in school made sense. This year, the whole “masks in schools” thing has become a huge political debate and I can see districts having to deal with a shit show of parental protests, whatever choice they make about masks. None of this makes me feel very confident about sending my kids back into school buildings.
As of now, I’m still committed to sending my children back to school. My vaccinated teen is definitely going back (with a mask, no matter what the rules are!). As for my little one, he was the one who suffered most during isolation, and for us, 18 months is where we’ve begun to weigh his mental health vs. COVID.
I definitely do not want him infected with this virus, but if school can still be “low risk”—even if it’s not a “zero” risk—I’m okay with that. I guess the question is whether Delta ends up turning it into a higher risk activity. Will masks be enough? Do we know if masks protect kids from Delta as well as they did from the older strains? What if the positivity rate rises significantly between now and when school starts?
These are all things I will continue to keep an eye on and consider as school draws closer. Until then, I’ll just be sitting here, stressing the heck out, waiting for my school district to release its plans, obsessing over every Delta article and study that’s published, and fucking cursing Delta the fuck out.