Deciding about in-person school for your kids

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a lot of difficult decisions for families as they navigate the new reality we’re all facing. One difficult choice parents are having to face is whether to send the kids back to school if their school is re-opening for in-person learning. There are a lot of factors that go into making the choice. It’s really important to make the decision about in-person school based on what’s best for your children and your family. But it’s difficult to weigh the pros and cons, the risks and benefits. We’ll go over some of the things to consider and explain a CDC tool that can help you with that decision-making process.

What factors go into the in-person school decision?

If your children’s school is phasing in in-person learning, there’s a lot to think about. Health concerns, of course, play a large part. Then there are work schedules and such to consider, as well as the schooling and the learning itself. There are other things, too, like the services the school provides (i.e. meal programs), childcare, and extracurriculars. It’s also important to look at your community’s numbers and the community spread.

All of that comes down to weighing the benefits of in-school learning against the risk of COVID-19. You need to consider whether your child or anyone in your family is at increased risk of COVID-19. That’s one of the biggest things to consider. The CDC has tools that can help you gauge your risk and your family’s risk. Their questionnaire can help you evaluate which option – virtual, in-person, or hybrid – is right for you and your kids, if you’re able to choose. (We’ll explain more about that later.) The decision is a difficult one, but it’s important to take note of the information the school sends out and review it carefully.

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Tips for reviewing your school’s plan for re-opening.

If your school is phasing in in-person learning, there are a few things you should look at when you review their plan for re-introducing the students to school.

  • Consider the methods the school will be using to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Will there be social distancing, hand-washing, and mask-wearing? There needs to be safety measures in place.
  • Think about the environment of the school itself. Will it be healthy? The ventilation has to be good, the school needs to be cleaned well, and surfaces need to be disinfected.
  • Ask yourself about the operation of the school and whether it will be healthy? Are the schedules going to be staggered? Will groups be kept small?
  • Know what the plan is for when someone gets sick.

These are some of the things that you need to take notice of. Now, depending on the COVID-19 situation in the community, your school may be taking more precautions. Whether you ultimately end up sending your kids back to in-person school or keeping them in virtual school, find out how your school can support your child on an emotional level. It can be hard on kids to either miss out on social time with their friends if they’re virtual or to face the stress of going back to in-person school during a pandemic.

CDC resources to help.

You can use a tool from the CDC to help you evaluate your particular situation and take stock of how comfortable you are with sending your child back to in-person school. There are different checklists about back-to-school that cover topics like at-home learning feasibility, your child’s academic and emotional well-being, or school services. There are different boxes you can pick in response to different questions – you can pick Agree, Disagree, or Unsure. (You just have to pick the one that’s closest to your situation.)

If you notice that you’ve checked a lot of Disagree or Unsure boxes, you may want to talk to either the school itself, your doctor, or your employer – whichever can best address the concerns you have. You can even use the checklist as a way to open the discussion and to make sure you’re remembering everything you want to talk about. The checklist tool can help you gauge whether you’re comfortable with in-person school. You’re juggling a lot, but the checklist can help.

The decision to send the kids back to in-person school is definitely not an easy one. Try to compare the potential benefits of in-person school with your family’s risk of COVID-19. The CDC tool can help you do that. There’s a lot to consider.

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