What the Future of Returning to School and Childcare Looks Like
Benjamin King, MD
July 28, 2020
4 min read
As a father of teenage boys, I’ve been waiting anxiously to see what schooling will look like this fall and likely for the foreseeable future. Will my kids have a “normal” secondary school experience or are proms, football rallies, college visits, and all the things that come with school going to move to virtual platforms? What will be the “new normal?” It can be overwhelming to think about.
As a pediatrician and father, I see the conversation about whether or not it’s safe to reopen schools changing daily — read here for more considerations on this subject. There are still so many unknowns when it comes to COVID-19 and children which means many questions about the future of in-person schooling are currently unclear.
I recently joined Carbon Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Sujal Mandavia, MD,for an in-depth discussion on this topic for a family-focused “On-Call with Carbon” on Instagram live@carbonhealth.
Not only did we discuss the pros and cons of getting children back in the classroom and childcare, but we also delved into the impact of COVID-19 children’s health, and what parents can do to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible.
Although the classroom looked totally different this year, and will continue to evolve in the next few months and years, as a community we can come together to help determine how to reopen schools and other childcare centers safely.
For now here are some key things to keep in mind as we start looking toward the new school year and beyond:
There is not a “one size fits all” approach to this issue. It’s incredibly complex and local responses are going to vary, depending on the local infection rate, local resources, the local patient population, and so on. Moreover, the conditions in our community and nationally are in constant flux, so a current solution may not be appropriate 2 months from now.
Due to the switch to full time distance learning, children have already fallen at least 7 months behind, according to American Academy of Pediatrics and the Teachers Federation. The need for more in-person schooling is urgent.
Schools need support, both from their community, as well as from federal government and local governments. Don’t be afraid to speak up to your school administrators and share your concerns but do so in a constructive way. Everyone is doing the best they can.
Your family’s needs are going to be a variable. You might have medical or behavioral issues. The medical issues may keep your child out of school, the behavioral issues may keep your child in school. There’s also the logistics of parents working, not to mention the financial picture. All these need to be taken into account as you come up with a family action plan.
Some pertinent questions to ask yourself: Does your child have any particular vulnerabilities? How has your child been doing with remote learning? Has it been really hard? Should you be trying to insist on in-person? How much has your child suffered from social isolation? Will your school have a real plan in place? How much will you worry sending your children to school? You’re going to have to come up with your own questions and your own decision matrix on how to approach what’s right for you and your family. Focus on the things you CAN influence.
Children do well with this virus, according to current thinking. Children, especially children under 10 years old, are much less likely to get sick with the coronavirus, and are more likely to get COVID-19 from family members rather than classmates at school according to current studies. We don’t want to be too casual about this situation for our children, but we can draw some reassurance from these facts.
Make a checklist with your kids. Sit down with them and explain why you are doing this, and stress that they really have to follow the rules when they are at school.
Consider creating a “learning bubble” with another family to allow the children to learn together and socialize, meanwhile the parents can take turns managing the group.
Watch for signs of depression or anxiety in your preteen or teen. If we’re going into another year of remote schooling, that’s going to be a significant concern for a tween or teen’s emotional and social development.
This is a communal effort. This is not a personal effort. This is not just for my family. We need to come together as a community and country to get all our children back to school.
Remember: we’re all doing our best. Try not to be too stressed, you’re doing what you can. You need to give yourself permission as an individual, as a parent, and as a school community member, to know that there are things that are outside of your control.
Give teachers a big shout-out. Be patient and work with them and keep lines of communication open. They have been on the frontlines of this crisis trying to figure out a way to make sure students are getting the education they need during this chaotic time.