Like most parents, I’m overwhelmed trying to decide whether or not to send my girls back to a private school this fall and I know that I am not alone. August 13th is coming at us like a freight train. I’m not normally a nervous person but the thought of sending my girls back to school has me terrified. The question every parent wants the answer to is how to send kids back to school during a pandemic? Is it even possible to do it safely? Let’s ask the CDC
I’m an optimist but I also have common sense and I do not take chances when it comes to the life and death of my girls. On March 9, my best friend (who happens to be an ED doctor) called and warned me that quarantine was coming and Coronavirus was much more serious than any of us anticipated. By that Thursday, I had decided to take my girls out of school. New normal, Coronavirus, Covid-19, back to school in pandemic, how to send kids back to school during a pandemic, face masks
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It was an easy decision. My daughters’ health was in jeopardy by an unknown pandemic. My gut told me what to do and I did it. We’re still quarantining because there is still so much about the pandemic that we don’t fully understand. I’ve lost friends and family members, more each day are contracting this virus. With each announcement, I’m more acutely aware of how easily any one of us can fall victim to it, and none of us know how our immune system will react to it. If you’ve given yourself false security by choosing to believe that it’s only other people’s families and friends who die from CoVid-19, you’re wrong. It doesn’t discriminate. Anyone of us can get it.
I felt safe when we were all staying in the house. I know that’s not sustainable for the long-term.
Was it frustrating for the world to come to a screeching halt? Yes, I’m not naturally a person who can stay still.
Is distance learning inconvenient and stressful? Yes.
Do I wish everyone’s lives could go back to normal and we could safely go back to life as we knew it before CoVid? More than anything. We’ve lost months of plans, travels, celebrations and time with people we love that we won’t ever be able to recover.
Do I want my girls to enjoy their 8th grade and sophomore year of school, filled with firsts and lasts and all the childhood goodness in between? 1000x yes but I don’t think it’s possible this year. We’re no safer than we were in March. In truth, it’s even more dangerous now because, people refuse to wear masks and social distance, and those are the only weapons we have to currently protect us.
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I’d like to believe that if everyone was taking responsibility for their own well-being, observing social distancing and wearing medical face masks, we could all find our way through this together. It would be easier to trust that people were trying to do the right thing. We could all take peace knowing that we were all working together to protect each other, out of human courtesy and respect for life, regardless of a little personal inconvenience.
The government is urging our schools to open, even threatening to withhold funds. How can they ask parents to send the children we created, birthed and love more than anything else in this world back into schools in the middle of a pandemic? I fully understand that our economy is in danger of collapse because of shutdowns but at what cost are we willing to sacrifice for economic comfort? We can live without a lot of comforts but my children are not an option. No one wants to sacrifice their family for economic recovery. Nobody should have to. Human life is irreplaceable, no matter your politics. I wouldn’t sacrifice my enemy’s life for my own economic satisfaction.
People are scared of losing their homes, their jobs, and their very way of life because of coronavirus. Requiring that our children go back to the classroom is irresponsible and dangerous. Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump are effectively saying that our children’s lives, the teachers’ lives, and our (the parents’) lives are less important than the DOW Jones. It’s easy to surmise that when an administration lies to a nation and tells us the opposite of common sense and truth, puts our lives in jeopardy, there’s another agenda right beneath the surface and it’s not altruistic and it has nothing to do with our freedoms. It’s about what politics has always been about money and power.
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You’re probably wondering how to send kids back to school in a pandemic. What our high school is doing has addressed a lot of my concerns. It’s a very comprehensive and well-thought-out plan but even still, I’m not sure that it’s enough to convince me to feel safe enough to send my daughters to school. At the end of the day, my kid is still immune-compromised and I’m diabetic. Whether I want to believe it or not, going into a public place of 1000 or more students (even with a mask and everything intended to be done right) in one building puts their lives in jeopardy because there is a lot of room for human error. When you’re dealing with children, human error is more likely than not.
Here are a few things our school is doing to send kids back to school during a pandemic, I won’t share it all because it’s a 16 page PDF ( I told you that it was comprehensive) but here are a few things:
- Masks to be worn in transition (in and out of building, between classes, on way to anywhere).
- In class, the desk will be socially distanced, masks are not required (this part gives me pause)
- unless asking a teacher for help.
- If you are in a class with a teacher who is older or immune-compromised, mask must be worn the entire time. If you cannot do so, due to a medical reason, the student will be transferred to a different classroom.
- Anyone who tests positive, must stay home for 10 days and must be fever free for 72 hours. Cannot return to school without a physician’s note and negative tests for coronavirus.
- There is a separate CoVid isolation room with plexiglass between beds and its own ventilation system for anyone exhibiting symptoms. Students must be picked up within 30 minutes if sick and going home.
- Students who are vulnerable, immune-compromised, have parents who with underlying conditions, have been exposed to CoVid or have tested positive symptomatic or asymptomatic are to participate in virtual learning which will be live-streamed daily by all teachers so kids can “attend” class from home and have live interaction and learning.
- Desks and chairs need to be sanitized when students enter the room and before they leave. Regular COVID 19 Disinfection should be done all around the school.
- Hallways will be one way.
- 10 minutes between classes to allow for one-way traffic and getting books in a safe manner.
- All returned library books will be isolated for 10 days.
- The school will be fogged nightly.
- Lunch will be socially distanced, utilizing the cafeteria and Basketball gym as well as adding a 4th lunch period. Lunches are to be packed from home or plated and delivered by cafeteria workers. Masks must be worn until sat at chosen, assigned (for the year) seat. No more a la cart offerings. Only touchless pay. In addition, schools can also opt for a food service company in order to ensure safe and healthy food for the students.
- Lockers will now be Freshman, sophomore, junior and senior versus whole grades in certain hallways. No sharing of lockers unless you are related and quarantined together, in which case, you will be required to share a locker with your sibling.
- Students will be dismissed to lockers in a staggered phase i.e. Freshman and Juniors after the first period, then sophomores and Seniors after the second period, alternating as such for the remainder of the day.
- Daily dismissal staggered.
There is so much more. Our plan is very comprehensive. It’s great on paper. I’m just not so sure how it will work in reality. I hope it works and fully recognizes that it’s a little different for our private school than it is for public schools. It’s a privilege that all of our students have laptops and WiFi and that many of our students have at least one parent who stays at home and can readily be available when and if we need to go to virtual learning.
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You’re not alone. None of know how to do this. We’re all in this together. But if you can’t reconcile yourself to which way to choose, if you can, err on the side of caution. We can overcome a pandemic but we can’t bring back the dead. Go with your gut and do what’s best for your family and your child. This is a new territory and there is no absolute right or wrong answer but I think the choice ultimately should be with the parents. No matter what you decide, we’re all in this pandemic together. Stay safe, wash your hands, social distance and PLEASE wear your masks.