Should we send our kids back to school this fall? It’s a question that’s on every parent’s mind, regardless of which schools are re-opening. The big issue is one of children’s safety and COVID-19. But this poses many smaller questions to consider. How will the health of students and teachers be monitored? Are schools well ventilated and capable of proper sanitizing? Are school nurses prepared? How will they rearrange classrooms? Will masks be provided for students and teachers? What about some sort three-days-off, three-days-on hybrid of remote and in-person learning? Are buses and drivers ready for social distancing? Will schools help students who don’t have access to strong internet meet the requirements for remote learning?
There are no easy answers to any of these questions. The variables are too numerous; so are the unknowns. Yes, school districts across the country are working hard to create reopening plans and contingency plans should they not be able to. But, as we’ve learned over the past six months, COVID doesn’t really care about plans.
So, considering all this, what are parents thinking? We spoke to a dozen fathers about whether or not they’ll be sending their kids back to school in the fall. Some think that schools will meet standards and plan on sending their kids; others lack the confidence of the school and other families and plan on keeping their kids at home. There is no right or wrong decision here. Instead, there’s merely a long list of pros and cons that are allowing parents to make their best decisions as of right now. And, of course, those decisions could change tomorrow, or in a week, or on the first day of the 2020-2021 school year. The only certainty right now is uncertainty.
Yes. The Schools Been Doing Everything Properly, So Far
“My son’s school — a private Catholic school — ran a summer camp during all of this, and I’ve been very impressed with the precautions they’ve taken to make sure everyone is safe. The kids, teachers and counselors all wash and sanitize every 10 or 15 minutes, and there’s not a surface in sight that isn’t wiped down or disinfected. All of the staff wears masks, and it’s clear that everyone is taking things seriously. If the camp is any indication of how a school day would run, I wouldn’t have any problem trusting them with my kids. They’ve shown me that health and safety are a top priority, which is more than I can say for a lot of other schools in the area.” – Chris, 34, Ohio
No. I Don’t Feel Confident At All.
“If I could reply to this question with that meme of Randy Jackson saying, ‘That’s gonna be a no from me, dawg’, I would. There are just too many variables in play to make me feel safe or confident. Even if all of the teachers wear masks, and sanitize everything, it literally only takes one negligent or selfish person to spread COVID to someone else, who can then bring it into the school. From there, it’d just be a catastrophe. I think that’s why I’d say no. I know most of the parents of kids in my daughter’s class, and I don’t trust them to take this all seriously.” – Josh, 35, Pennsylvania
I’ll Send My Kids Back If They Staff Up and Shrink Class Sizes
“I’ll send my kids back if the plan to shrink class sizes actually happens. That’s the only way I’ll feel safe. Right now, there are 25 kids in my daughter’s kindergarten class. Even without a pandemic, that’s more than enough sneezes, coughs, and booger wipes to spread germs across the entire room. There have been talks of splitting the class in half, which I’d be okay with. It seems manageable, and I feel like the school would take the sanitization and cleaning seriously. So, if they can staff up and find the space to make that plan happen, I’m good with it.” – Nathan, 29, Connecticut
I Don’t Think We’re There Yet
“I don’t think I can. If the school board is having virtual meetings to decide whether or not school is safe to open, instead of meeting in person, what does that say about the safety of opening a school? It doesn’t instill a lot of confidence knowing that the people in charge won’t risk going to a facility, but expect kids and teachers to do it. At the beginning of summer, I was hopeful that things would get worked out by the time school started, but I don’t think we’re there yet. At least not where I feel safe about sending my kids back.” – Patrick, 30, New Hampshire
We Will Send Him Back. He’s Lost So Much Progress.
“Our son will go back. He has autism, and the daily social interactions and academic instruction are essential to his development. It terrifies me how much progress we may have lost thanks to the schools shutting down last year. The virtual learning was fine, but he thrives when he can see his friends, and be in an actual classroom. I think the schools will take things seriously, and prioritize safety, so I have no problem sending him back if they reopen.” – Will, 29, Florida
It’s Too Hard to Say Right Now.
“We’re undecided. Everything changes day-to-day. Not just with the school situation, but with the whole pandemic in general. There aren’t any straight, definitive answers. One day it’s calming down, the next day it’s the biggest spike we’ve seen since it started. So, for us, it’s just impossible to make a decision. Obviously, we’d love to plan ahead and say that we definitely will or won’t send our kids back to school. But, how can we realistically do that when there’s just so much uncertainty?” – John, 34, New York
Absolutely Not. I Need A Lot More Reassurance
“No fucking way. That’s how strongly I feel about not sending our kids back to school. There’s absolutely nothing that the local, state, or federal government has done to make me think, ‘Yeah, it seems perfectly safe to send my kids into a building full of a hundred other kids, whose parents I don’t know.’ If I could say, without any shadow of doubt, that I knew every student’s parents were wearing masks, sanitizing, and generally taking this seriously, I’d be first in line when school reopened. But, there’s no way that’s possible. So, I’m going to need a lot more reassurance than some hand sanitizer pumps and bleach wipes in each classroom to take that risk.” – Reed, 34, Ohio
No Way. I Don’t Trust the Other Parents At All.
“Nope. And you know why? I’m Facebook friends with a lot of my son’s classmates’ parents, and I’ve seen plenty of posts that make me realize they’re all idiots. One mom posted a selfie out at a crowded bar. A lot of them are anti-mask. There was one parent who even said something like, ‘I hope my kid gets it, so that he’ll get the antibodies and get it over with!’ And I’m supposed to feel comfortable sending my son to school with these morons’ kids? No way. I’ll be looking for a tutor instead.” – J.C., 33, North Carolina
Yes. But Only Because My Daughter Attends a Small, Private School.
“I think we’ll send our son and daughter back to school if it resumes in the fall. It’s a small, private school – that’s the main reason. Their classes aren’t larger than ten kids, and the teachers have all been very communicative about measures they plan to take should the school year begin on time. I think that’s all a parent can ask in this situation – honesty and the prioritization of safety. If they went to a bigger school, with more students, and more parents we didn’t know, it’d be a different story. But, as far as the school community goes, I think we’re all on the same page regarding what needs to happen when the kids go back.” – Camden, 32, Indiana
I Want to. My Wife Doesn’t. We Still Need to Figure It Out.
“My wife and I disagree about the whole situation. I think it will be fine, honestly. But she’s a catastrophic thinker, and is terrified of one of our daughter’s classmates showing up like the monkey from Outbreak and hacking COVID all over everyone. I know a lot of teachers in our district. I went to high school with a few of them. And they all seem to think that schools will inevitably reopen. If that’s the case, I can’t imagine everyone involved not taking every single precaution to prevent anything from happening. Maybe I’m naive about it. Maybe my wife is overreacting. Hopefully we can figure it out when the time comes.” – Greg, 39, Oregon
If There’s Some Sort of Hybrid School Model, Then Yes.
“If there’s a hybrid virtual/in-person learning model in place, I think we’ll send our daughter back to school. We were very impressed with how the school handled the early closing by transitioning everything to online learning. So, we know it’s a possible, viable option. But, we also know that sitting in front of a computer isn’t the same as being in a classroom with your friends, learning how to play and interact. There’s been talk of three days in class, two days learning from home, which I think would be a good way to go. At least to see what happened. I think a lot of schools and parents are looking at this as an either/or situation. We send them back full time, or we don’t. But, it doesn’t have to be like that, and we think this would be a safe, effective compromise.” – Alan, 38, South Carolina
I Know It’s Risky, But They’ll Be Going Back.
“Even though I know it’s risky, I think the face-to-face element of school needs to be there, especially at such a young age. My son actually loved the online learning he did at the end of last school year. I think that’s because it was a novelty. It was like FaceTiming your friends all at once, which was fun, and cool, and a great substitute for in-person learning. Mentally, I think the kids need to be around other kids. They truly have no idea what’s going on right now, and these are incredibly formative years for elementary school children. I think that taking the proper precautions, combined with a vigilant attitude, will allow schools to resume effectively. And I trust them to do that.” – Steve, 37, Georgia