Deciding Whether or Not to Start School During COVID-19

Deciding Whether or Not to Start School During COVID-19

by | Jul 9, 2020 | Parenting, Safety | 0 comments

It’s time to make a tough decision.

You’ve seen my posts recently about my daughter Wren, 2 years old, starting preschool last week (and thank you for your moral support!). Since you might be trying to decide whether or not to send your kids to school now too, I thought I’d outline how we made the decision to send Wren to school in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

We did it.

My husband and I approached this decision by doing a risk-benefit analysis, weighing out the pros and cons of sending Wren to school.

First, the risks.

Knowing kids are super germy, our biggest concerns were:

  1. Can she get COVID-19 and become very ill?
  2. Can she bring home COVID-19 and make her grandparents very ill?

To look for answers, we found reliable data reviewed by pediatricians and infectious disease specialists.

So far, here’s what we know:

  • COVID-19 is a novel virus, which means it’s not acting like viruses we’re used to. The data is still evolving, so it’s challenging to find a consensus or clear guidelines.
  • If kids are exposed to COVID-19, they’re less likely to become infected. If they do become infected, they tend to have milder disease than adults, hardly ever requiring hospitalization or ICU care.

  • There is a multisystem inflammatory disorder (MIS-C) similar to Kawasaki’s disease and associated with COVID-19 infection, but this condition is exceedingly rare and survival rates are high.

  • Even when kids and adults have the same viral load of COVID-19, kids less than 12 years old are less likely to transmit the virus to household members, compared to older children and adults. Most infected kids seem to have gotten the virus from an adult household member rather than from school.

  • Based on current data, transmission from students to staff and from students to other students (especially younger students) appears to be rare.

  • Masks, handwashing, and social distancing really do make a difference.

While the risks can never be zero, the likelihood of your child falling seriously ill from COVID-19 or infecting household members is very low, based on what we know so far. However, when making this decision, be sure to consider special circumstances, such as whether there are vulnerable household members that live with you and how to limit their risk of exposure or if your child has special health care needs that make physical distancing a challenge.

Risks aren’t absolute.

Thankfully, schools and daycare centers are taking the above risks very seriously and working hard to mitigate them.

Here are some strategies:

  • Temperature checks before school
  • Adult staff members wearing masks at all times
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfection of high touch surfaces
  • Frequent handwashing for staff and students
  • Minimizing interaction of students between classrooms
  • Physical distancing of 3-6 feet where possible
  • Students wearing masks (in older kids)
  • Fewer students per class, fewer students on campus at the same time
  • More time outside if possible
  • Being prepared to provide virtual education if the needs arises

I bet if you ask your child’s school or daycare what precautions they’re taking, they’d be happy to share the hard work they’re doing to keep your child safe.

Finally, the benefits. Why even go through the trouble?

The benefits of school are vast, of course. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) details it really well in their recent report encouraging schools to open safely for in-person education.

For Wren, she’s inquisitive and talkative like most her age, and we felt the time was right for her to be challenged academically (as much as you can academically challenge a 2 year old, I guess) but we knew she’d also learn things we just can’t teach her all that well at home … how to share with others, patiently wait her turn, sit quietly in a group and listen to the teacher, develop new social and emotional skills, navigate new friendships, and all the positive peer pressure that comes with being around other kids who are learning too.

For us, the excitement of what she could gain from school outweighed the fear that she could become sick by being around so many new people. That was our decision, but it’s a very personal one, and there’s no right or wrong answer, just what’s right for your family for now. I think with this virus, we’ll have to take things day by day, keep a close eye on the local statistics, and be prepared to change our minds if new data supports it.

Happy to help.

If you need to dive into the pros and cons deeper, I’m happy to help talk it through with you, just reply to this message, and we can figure it out together.