Parents Are Worried About Sending Children Back to School Too Soon
While parents recognize the mental health benefits of sending children back into the classroom, the looming risk of another wave of the pandemic is worrisome.
Childcare is hard on a blended schedule The logistics are tricky for families with multiple children on different schedules as well.
For single parents, parents who work hourly wage jobs that generally cannot be remote, or for essential workers in transportation and medical fields, childcare during the pandemic has already been a challenge. Women are disproportionately affected. With schools set to reopen with a combination of days in the classroom and days at home, the burden can make it impossible. For parents with multiple children the concern is that their in-classroom days or the parents' work schedules will not line up or childcare facilities may not be fully open on the days needed. At least with a fully remote learning schedule, there was flexibility from colleagues, staff, and school districts. Most districts did not require live-teaching at certain times of day so single-parent and caregiver teachers were able to work around their other duties while keeping up with the curriculum and grading students' work. . Being fully remote also meant teachers could gain better insight into students' individual home lives, how to work with parents and their schedules, students' learning preferences during the pandemic, and teach children important skills like time management and balance. Beyond these reasons, there does not seem to be high interest or ability to adhere to a blended learning schedule. In New York City, which is set to go on this type of in-person and virtual mix for the fall, 390,000 public school students opted out of the blended learning model so they could learn remote full-time. Logistics are messy, at best, when multiple children are in the same household and may be attending different schools. There is also the lack of transparency regarding health measures, air ventilation in older school buildings, and students having to deal with multiple teachers - one for in-person, one for virtual lessons. For younger students this can be jarring and difficult to get into a rhythm of learning.
This is hardest for hourly workers Low income workers are already the most at risk and more affected by the virus.
For most low-wage workers, remote work is not possible. Their communities have borne a disproportional brunt during the pandemic and so it may seem like a good idea to send their children back into the classroom at first. However many of them, often parents of color, have said they are scared about the consequences. These parents cannot afford to stay home and teach their children full-time like some, but sending them back into the classroom puts their health at risk as well. A blended schedule combining both could be impossible to navigate depending on work schedules, multiple children whose days at home or in the classroom may not line up with siblings, and childcare. Many have had elderly relatives move in to assist with childcare, but those people are being put at the highest risk if children are exposed to the virus in schools and bring it home. For other low wage workers, sending children back to school too soon means exposing themselves as cafeteria staff, bus drivers, teachers' assistants, and janitorial staff. These workers are largely not provided with proper protective gear and the lack of city or state measures in place regarding hygiene, cleaning schedules, special cleaning supplies, building ventilation, and social distancing in small spaces puts them at even more risk.