To in-person school or to virtual school, that is the question. As I sit around the socially-distanced pool with fellow moms of school-aged kids, there is always one conversation going on. And that conversation revolves around how safe it is to send our kids back to school this 2020-2021 school year. See, coronavirus is still on the rise in the US. Although where I am living, in NJ, it has been contained for a couple of months, it is still here. As a result, many parents are torn about what to do for school.
Our state hasn’t allowed people to interact much inside. Is that why it is contained here? Because it is easier to stop the spread outdoors? Will it start spreading again once schools open and the germ-factories known as small children create their own Petri-dishes inside each classroom? These are all questions we all have, but with an unprecedented virus, none of us have the answers to, not even those in the medical field.
Virtual School Vs. In-Person School
Of course, we all have predictions and fears and they come from all different angles and backgrounds. Many people are afraid for their and (their kids’) mental health statuses if they don’t go back to school. I can totally relate to this. We love our kids more than anything in the world, but we chose not to homeschool and we rely on having a break from our kids during the day to work, run errands, exercise, etc. Not having that break makes for a long, exhausting day.
And on the flip side we know that our children behave better and learn better in a school setting where an adult other than ourselves is in charge. Getting my first grader to write five sentences last spring, during virtual learning, was akin to pulling teeth. But I know he doesn’t act like that for his teacher. Children develop important life skills and social skills when they interact regularly with adults other than their parents.
No Socialization At Virtual School
In addition to socializing with adults, many parents (myself included) desire their children to get back on track with socializing with their peers. Back in the Spring, when my kids were finally playing outside again after our state was under lockdown, it was awkward for them to see their friends again. They kind of forgot how to act around other kids. It showed me how important it is for kids to learn from one another and regularly play with kids outside of the home.
But the argument also remains that if kids go back to school with masks, social distance, no recess or lunch periods, will they really benefit from real socialization? I still think it is better to have the kids in a learning setting outside of the home and to learn with peers. But I know school will look totally different than before. And will it really be safe? Kids can try, but they don’t properly wash their hands, or wear their masks, or keep their distance.
In-Person School Protocols
We know children aren’t really getting as sick from COVID-19, as adults are, but what if a teacher gets infected? Will the whole school shut down? And is it fair to require teachers to teach in-person while many other professions have a virtual option? Are states even asking teachers for input and what they think the protocols should be to help every kid stay safe and have an opportunity to do their best learning? From what I hear, that is not the case.
If one student develops a fever or other COVID-19 symptoms, they will be required to get tested and then that entire classroom will have to stay out of school until the student’s results come in. If they are negative, the class can resume, but if they are positive, the whole class and their families have to quarantine for two weeks. Kids get sick all the time, outside of the coronavirus. In kindergarten, my eldest got a fever every month in the first 4 months of school. I see the potential for a lot of classes on quarantine in elementary school. So is this worth it?
I don’t have any answers for you. And it seems like nobody else does either. All I keep hearing is, “There is no right answer, there are risks to both sides.” Virtual school or in-person school, either way, this is a parenting scenario where no one is going to make your decisions for you. And nobody is going to affirm your choice. Because nobody knows. It is a “wait and see” with the most uncertainty any of us have ever had.
This is how I am handling it. Trust. I am asking God’s protection over my family and my kids. I have an arsenal of Bible verses reminding me not to worry. For example Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
And I use these verses on a daily basis, but even more so when faced with this decision about sending my kids back to school in the middle of a pandemic. As humans, we try and control everything. And when something comes our way that presents feelings of loss of control, we try and control it even more. As a result, we make ourselves sick with worry.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?“
Control is an illusion, none of us are really in control of anything, are we? As Christians, God wants us to release control to Him. These trying times refine us and grow our faith. We can not control this situation, but we can seek Him, pray for guidance, pray for protection, and hope that His ways are greater than our ways.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.