I think it’s safe to say that we all started this school year worried like we’ve never been worried before. From getting through Zoom meetings for work while our kids were simultaneously Zooming for school; to being wildly worried about whether the hybrid model would actually work for our kids and our family; and of course, if anyone would come down with COVID-19 or worse, die from it.
We are all, in some way, impacted by COVID-19, especially as parents with school aged children. This school year, my kids started off the year 100% remote. Once our community COVID-19 infection rate went down enough to safely partially open schools, it was the right decision for my family and my kids, to get them inside of the classroom and send them to school. Our dining room table just wasn’t cutting it for them.
They eased back into the classroom, first with the hybrid model — two days in the classroom and three days home. With some parents opting to keep their kids home, my kids were able to attend school and receive a little extra attention from the teacher, something they may not have received or the intended twenty-five students were able to safely be in the classroom. Now, all three of my kids are back in school 4 days a week, and let me tell you, it’s the best decision for them and for my sanity.
With just over three months left in this school year, what will happen next year is heavily weighing on me. Who knows what the summer will bring with this pandemic, but I do know, for my kids, sending them to school four days a week — five if we can safely do so — is what they need.
Next year, I fully anticipate continuing to send my partner text message reminders to “don’t forget their masks” and “remember to send them with their water bottles.” This is our life. Our kids are armed with face masks and reusable water bottles simply because drinking out of the school water fountain isn’t safe, as far as we know. And what we do know about kids getting sick and if (or when) they will be vaccinated, provides enough pause for some parents who worry about next school year.
Natasha Philips, parent to a 6th grader, in a small suburb just outside of Atlanta, Georgia shares some of her fears in an interview with Scary Mommy, “I am still very nervous about sending him back to school full-time. We still just don’t know much about what happens when kids get sick with this disease. So, I am skeptical. But we will be sending him to school even though I am nervous,” she says. At the end of the day, we must all do what is best for our families and our kids.
Life and school will never be the same for any of us. While I know our kids are all pretty resilient, we must all adapt and that includes for the next school year. The school supply list will look a little different at least for me this year. I have already begun to stock up on extra masks and water bottles for my kids in fear that we will all encounter a repeat of our national toilet tissue and hand sanitizer drought from last spring. Our fears as parents are real, and they start at birth, if not before. COVID-19 provides a unique challenge for us all, and so many unanswered questions leave us feeling helpless.
As we look ahead into next school year, I am really worried about five things:
1) I am worried about my kids’ social and emotional well-being, especially as they are still formulating their identities as students.
2) I am worried that their teachers won’t get to know them as they are managing their own homes, their own fears about COVID-19, and how their professions might change.
3) I am worried about my kids getting or giving COVID-19 to others.
4) I am worried that my kids idea of what school can be — sharing tables with their peers, eating lunch shoulder to shoulder with their classmates, picking out books from the library without them being quarantined — will not happen for a long time.
5) I am worried about my own mental load, my work-life and how I will support my kids’ education without feeling like I am somehow failing at both.
None of this is easy and the CDC doesn’t particularly help in decreasing my fears. On their website, they say, “The true incidence of COVID-19 in children is not known due to lack of widespread testing and the prioritization of testing for adults and those with severe illness. Recent evidence suggests that compared to adults, children likely have similar viral loads in their noses and throats and can spread the virus to others.”
The advice of the CDC continues, which ultimately says that as parents and caregivers, we must always make the best decision for our families and for our kids, and it’s okay if that decision differs from the person who lives next door to us. There are so many options to weigh. Some kids take the subway to school while others take the bus … will either mode of transportation be a safe option for our kids next year? What about recess without a mask: will that ever happen? The unknowns are endless but what we do know is that our kids need to be educated in a safe environment for all.