COVID concerns and lifestyle fears of parents
As summer winds down and the COVID-19 pandemic feels eerily like March and April for many, the topic of our nation’s children returning to school is front and center. Count myself among the many who felt back in March that naturally, my child’s school would open back up normally this year, it only made sense right? Yet here we are, five months later and unfortunately the pandemic is still gripping the nation. This has brought on much-expected debate and conflicting viewpoints on how back to school plans should be carried out.
In this time of deep division, there is something most parents of school-aged children see the same way, that being the impact the pandemic is having on the quality of our children’s education. An almost universal 88% of parents of children in grades K-12 are concerned the pandemic will have a negative impact on their children’s education. But does that mean the time is now to fully resume in-school learning as we did one year ago?
Let’s be clear, all things being equal we want our children to be in the classroom as soon as possible. As the parent of a son who has battled social anxiety in a classroom setting going back to Kindergarten and is now entering his final year before high school, I view his attending school in person as vital for long-term development. Yes, like most other children these days, back in the spring he navigated through the technology requirements of at-home learning and at times was able to serve as backup IT support and assist his teachers on making Zoom work. It wasn’t seamless, but it worked reasonably well for the final few months of the school year.
Still, this is not supposed to be the school setting most experience, and therein lies one of many conflicts. My wife and I don’t necessarily have concerns over our son’s ability to learn virtually but turning that into the normal routine is deeply concerning at a crucial time of life for personal growth, making new friends and having a fully structured daily setting. For all of us, inevitably there are the unavoidable disruptions that occur throughout the household: balancing our work responsibilities and our own Zoom meetings and phone calls, even our dogs experienced a sense of disruption for a while. Our survey suggests we are not alone in these thoughts, as 77% of parents are concerned about their daily household routine being disrupted if at-home learning becomes necessary again this fall.
Now, back to the unavoidable and still currently uncontrollable aspect, the Coronavirus itself. Most parents of K-12 children in the U.S. are generally concerned about schools being able to open safely in the fall (86%), or at full capacity (86%). On a personal level, despite all the education and lifestyle concerns that come with the likelihood of at least some virtual learning to start this school year, the health of our son and our family is most important of all. Several members of our family have experienced serious health concerns over the last few years, and it would be untruthful to say this is not on our minds now. Nearly all parents seem to feel the same way, with 90% concerned about their children attending school and either contracting COVID-19 themselves and/or bringing it back home. As writer Augusten Burroughs so eloquently said, “When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all”, so while I do have hope that life will eventually return to normal, for the moment we just may need to be patient a little longer when it concerns the opening of our schools.