Whether we're threatened by the second or the third spike of this persistent and deadly COVID-19 pandemic, parents are again faced with school closings and re-openings that have them confused and in doubt. Is their child better off at home being schooled on-line or attending their local brick and mortar school with their classmates and teachers?
Along with educators and public officials, parents are struggling to make informed decisions about the health risks their communities and families face. No one has ever encountered a public health threat that has lasted this long. The nature of the contagion, as well as the seriousness of the illness, varies from patient to patient and community to community. Just when the country thought we might have this thing licked in the Northeast, it snuck up on us in the Southwest, then spread rapidly to the upper Midwest. We closed schools in New York, then California, then reopened New York only to close Michigan and reopen California but close Washington. Parents are confused and frightened.
Since the holidays, parents, caregivers, and guardians are again facing new and difficult choices about whether their child should return to school. Their choice of learning format may be based on whether their child or a household member is at increased risk of severe illness, how many cases of COVID-19 are in their community, their child’s academic and social-emotional needs, and their family’s or household’s needs.
The CDC has recognized this dilemma and has designed a “decision-tree” that parents may use to help them make an informed decision. It is divided into four easy to fill out questionnaires to help parents decide what's best for their child.
- Household Risk - A series of yes or no questions dealing with the positivity rate of Covid-19 infection in the community and the school. Does it exceed 5%? Is your child or someone in your household at risk of "serious illness?”
- In-Person Learning - assesses a parent's comfort level with their school's plans for limiting the spread of COVID-19 and their child's ability to wear a mask all day and follow the school's public health guidelines both while in school and traveling to and from school.
- Virtual/At-Home Learning - helps parents self-assess whether they can provide the environment and support necessary for their child to have a positive at-home virtual learning experience.
- School-based Services - Realistically assess how much their child requires school-based services like tutoring, meals, emotional or mental health services, after school activities that provide after-care, or any Individualized Education Program (IEP).
The CDC Website
Parents faced with difficult decisions can find these "decision trees" on the CDC website. Use them to help you make a sound judgment on behalf of your children and your family. These are difficult times for everyone. Waste no time blaming others for this crisis. If we focus on making the best decisions we can, one-step-at-a- time, we will emerge into the light at the end of this dark tunnel together.