3 Things to Consider About COVID and Back to School

Anxiety, fear, and worry are just a few of the emotions that parents and caregivers may be grappling with right now. As many school districts are preparing for the return of the school year, and some have already returned, many of us are pondering what exactly will the 2021-2022 academic school year look like, especially in the midst of a worldwide pandemic?

The answer is that the response for your child will vary because the governance of school districts is localized. Most school districts are governed by school boards.

The boards are comprised of elected officials who engage in shared governance in determining the overall operations of a district. Working in tandem with the district’s superintendent, they make decisions that directly impact your child’s education.

Understandably, the nuances of a school district’s decision-making process can be quite a bit of information for parents to digest. So, what’s a parent to do?

Stay Informed

Local school boards often rely upon the information provided to them at the local, state and federal levels. Because of this, there is no uniform approach to how school districts are handling the COVID crisis. In many areas, the local department of health monitors local COVID cases.

Using different metrics such as positivity rates over a period of time, death rates, and/or case spikes, local health officials are often able to hone in on transmission rates at a granular level, including by zip code.

By staying informed about school board meetings—many of which are virtual—and staying abreast of pubic briefings and press conferences, you will know, in a timely manner, what decisions are being made by your district.

Some districts like New York City have opted for in-person instruction; others have opted for blended learning or a hybrid approach that combines e-learning with some in-person instruction and others have decided that all instruction until further notice will be online. 

The only way to be absolutely sure in what direction your district is going is to be actively involved.

Focus on Data

The nature of the pandemic and how organizations like the CDC and the NIH are responding to it, changes almost daily. For example, it was confirmed that young children are more susceptible to the virus than was originally reported.

A recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that there has been a 90 percent increase in COVID-19 cases among children over the last 4 weeks.

As information changes, you need to be prepared. Honing in on what’s going on both locally and nationally will allow you to make a decision that is best for your child, especially if you live in a district where parents are allowed to make a choice about the type of learning platform that will be used.

As you are making a decision about what is best for your child, ask questions about sanitization, PPE for students, teachers and staff and contingency plans if someone in the district tests positive.

Know Your Rights

The reality is that none of us could have foreseen or truly prepared for COVID-19. As it relates to the new school year, some families will have access to academic pods, tutors and/or nannies to assist with whatever educational system is in place.

Others may find that e-learning or hybrid learning can create a hardship, especially if remote work is not an option for a parent. Others may find that either due to their underlining health conditions or those of a child, sending a child ‘back’ to school is simply not a viable option.

Per the US Department of labor, “…caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19” qualifies one for paid sick time. Make sure that you check first with your HR representative to ensure that you are eligible.

Although there are many uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 and the academic school year, parents should rest assured that they are not alone and that they are empowered.

Your child’s well-being is a priority and by learning as much as you can about COVID-19, you are impacting your community. You too can make an informed decision about the 2021-2022 school year.

August 13, 2021 by Dr. Tyra Seldon

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