The end of summer is coming, and with it parents are looking forward to re-establishing the routine and normalcy of school. Or are they????
With COVID-19 wrecking the latter part of the school year in 2020, there are many school districts (my children’s among them) that have worked diligently on a different plan for this school year, understandably leaving many parents, students, employers and members of the community left with many questions like: Is school really safe enough to send my kids to? Should I assume this risk? Do the social benefits of being together in a school setting with their peers trump the concerns to their health?
In my kids’ school district, they are proposing two plans for attendance, allowing the parents and students to decide which option works best for them. The first option would be solely online learning, done virtually from home 100%. The other model would have students attending 2 days a week in person, and the other 3 days participating in an online platform. The hybrid model (2 days in school, 3 days online) would be the option chosen for those who participate in school sports or music.
Not only am I feeling the impact as a parent navigating the options, but I also feel pressure as an employer to many professionals out there trying to navigate this tricky territory AND attempting to find daycare for this school year.
As a parent, I am concerned primarily with my kids’ health and safety. I have read many articles (published by credible scientific sources) that state that children are less at risk than adults and the elderly for contracting COVID-19. My kids are also in middle and high school, so their maturity levels (although I question them at times!) are such that wearing a mask daily, is not something that they will be challenged by. I am eternally grateful to have older youth, rather than “itty bitty” kids right now, mostly because it is so difficult to reinforce the need for proper mask wearing and to keep tiny hands and fingers out of mouths. I have reasoned that since my kids have demonstrated to me, over the last 5 months, that they are more than willing to bear the slight inconvenience of the mask in order to be out in society, that I will send them to school. I don’t worry about them being a burden to their teachers, or a risk to their classmates by being socially irresponsible.
As an employer, I worry that the online schooling option (full or part time) will make it difficult for my team to find daycare. With many daycare providers having their own children, they have to balance their own children’s schooling with their needs of their additional charges. In addition, with COVID-19 making so many people anxious about being around others in any type of social setting, there are already a reduced number of independent daycare providers, simply due to health concerns. Bringing other peoples’ children into their own homes, can be downright dangerous to those with pre-existing health conditions.
So what to do?
1. Follow your gut.
2. Read and look at credible sources for up-to-the-moment stats and information on COVID-19, such as the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) website.
3. Poll your trusted friends when making decisions to see what they will do.
4. Think outside the box on daycare arrangements. One creative solution I heard was from a working mom who had decided to have a stay-at-home mom friend of hers watch her young ones on the days that they will be out of school, yet doing online schooling. Another solution is teaming up with 2-3 trusted friends with kids of about the same age, to “swap” days where the kids will be together, but doing online school. If each person/parent in the group offered to host one day, the days at home would be split equally amongst the group making your duty only 1 day. The kids would all be together with peers and could ask each other for help...These are simply a few of the creative solutions that I’ve heard about as I’ve been pondering the helplessness of the situation from both the mom and employer sides of the issue.
5. Talk openly and brainstorm with your team members at work to come up with strategic ways to help one another.
6. Last but certainly not least, remember that EVERY person on this planet is encountering obstacles from the COVID-19 challenge. None of us are alone in this.
I wish you all the very best as this school year begins. Remember “And this too shall pass.” That has gotten me through a lot of 2020!