Ever since school suddenly went online last spring, we’ve been hoping (maybe too optimistically) that the worst of the pandemic would be over by fall and schools could return to normal for our children. Remote learning was not great for a lot of families, yet here we are: it's August already and kids are heading back to educational formats that are very far from normal. Schools have had to make tough, no-win choices, and parents and kids are stuck with the results.
I have two high school girls who are disappointed to start their school year 100% online. The plan is to slowly phase in two days of in-person (hopefully!) attendance per week. They’re both nervous about learning their tough subjects online and sad that their sports have been canceled. Mostly they are missing their friends and wondering if they’ll be able to make any new ones with this structure.
I’m sad and worried for them and our house is overfilled with “zooming” people, which is its own challenge. I hope the WiFi holds up!
Safety is Priority #1
A poll conducted in July by AP-NORC asked Americans about their thoughts related to K-12 schools reopening this fall. Only 8% believe that schools should fully reopen for normal operation while the pandemic is still ongoing. 31% believe that the safety risks are too great for any in-person instruction, while 46% and 14% are willing to open with major and minor safety precautions, respectively. Not surprisingly, parents are still scared of the coronavirus and not ready to return to normal.
Despite those worries, about ⅔ of parents still think it's important for kids to attend at least some school in-person. It’s a pickle. The answer from many schools has been to create hybrid schedules where part of the learning is conducted online to reduce the number of people in the school buildings and reduce the chances of viral outbreaks. That sounds pretty good, but let me say, with 3 kids in three different schools and varying schedules every day, whoa! It is a logistical nightmare for both the schools and the families. We’ll see how it goes.
What are the costs?
Our virus fears and the logistics are tough, but it's tough in other ways too. I keep thinking of how all these measures affect the kids. My freshman is shy and worried about starting at a new school; zoom and social distancing will not make that easier. I worry about my junior and how important this year is academically. Like many students, she doesn’t learn as well online as in person.
Our recent back-to-school parent survey from Be Vivid You asked parents to name their top concern for the new school year. Number one was staying safe from COVID-19 (32%), with academics a close second (31%). Mental health and socialization were tied for third followed by sports and physical activity. These concerns make perfect sense to me; I share them all!
One thing is clear: parents will need to stay more involved with their kids this fall to watch out for developing problems. We may need to provide more support than usual, such as:
- Tutoring for academics
- Support or professional help for mental health concerns
- Help setting up social connections
- Finding physical outlets
It’s not surprising that a majority of respondents in our survey said they are not satisfied with the choices offered by their childrens' schools, but we can get through this fall by being proactive and supporting our children and school staff as much as possible--and by staying safe!
We’d love to hear your feelings about the start of this school year. Do you like your school’s plans? What are your biggest concerns? Please share in the comments below or respond to our survey.