Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced earlier this month that Miami-Dade County had moved into Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, effectively clearing the way for a path to bring students back to in-person schooling. This week, Miami-Dade County Public Schools tentatively announced plans to return some students to school on Oct. 14, with the rest of those who want in-person schooling able to do so by Oct. 21.
Though the details for how a return to in-person schooling will look initially are still being ironed out, most parents and caregivers are now facing the reality of sending their kids back to school on a consistent basis for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic. Ultimately, parents must do what is best for their family, but here are four things to keep in mind to guide you on the way to sending your kids back to in-person schooling.
Today, the School Board voted to have students, whose parents selected the Schoolhouse model for Stage II, return to school no earlier than October 14 and no later than October 21. Details to follow. #MDCPSReopening pic.twitter.com/p8TZ7TsEDV— Miami-Dade Schools (@MDCPS) September 22, 2020
Safety Above Everything
Keeping our children and those around them safe is the most important consideration when sending kids back to school. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), the degree in which kids contract and spread the disease compared to adults is not clear, but some facts are not in dispute: kids can get the virus, they can spread it and can get sick from it – although the latter in less percentage numbers and severity than adults.
For parents and caregivers with children who have underlying medical conditions, the decision to return them to school is even more risky, just as it is if they live or have close contact with adults or seniors with underlying conditions. In order to help make a decision on in-person schooling, visit the CDC’s School-Decision Making Tool.
Whatever decision parents ultimately make, of critical importance is to keep open and constant communication with your children about ways to minimize risk of infection, teach your kids the importance of wearing masks, social distancing, and keeping themselves and their surroundings as hygienically clean as possible. For a guide from the CDC on how to protect children at school and in general, click here. It is also important to keep informed about how your school district and school are handling the situation, updates on infection rates and hot spots, and all other COVID-19-related information that affects your kids.
After-School and Full-Day Program Options
Just as parents must consider medical issues when sending their kids back to school, they must also think about the realistic options for child care. If appropriate or consistent child care is an issue, parents must also weigh that in determining whether to send kids back to school. Child care providers have been at the forefront of the pandemic since it started and The Children’s Trust has been supporting providers who are offering after-school and full-day programs since the start of this virtual school year. Though the slots for those programs are at a premium, parents who must return to work with no support structure to care for their kids will be looking at in-person schooling as a viable option when they are required to go out to work.
Not everyone’s child has handled the coronavirus pandemic the same. Some children have thrived during the increased time at home, focusing on individual hobbies or pursuits, improving their academic capabilities and becoming closer with siblings and parents or caregivers. Others, however, have struggled to adapt to the increased isolation, regressing or staying static in their cognitive abilities, falling into bad habits and acting out repeatedly. Most children will have a combination of positive and negative outcomes because of their increased time at home, so the decision to send them back to school should consider all those factors and balance them.
Remember, under normal and even ideal circumstances, children will develop at their own pace. And while it is important to consider developmental progress when sending them back to school, it is normal if they are struggling in general and to not add unnecessary stress to their lives and your own.
Social, Emotional and Physical Wellness
The current pandemic has been among the most traumatic and impactful events of our children’s young lives. The full impacts likely won’t be known for years but we don’t have to wait until then to look at our children and ask the questions about how their social, emotional and physical well-being are going in light of the new reality.
Among the most common impacts is how the time away from friends and other family will affect their social lives. Do they exhibit signs of isolation, or have they been able to connect with friends and others during their time apart? Do they have daily interactions with anyone other than parents and caregivers? Similarly, how is their emotional health? Have they fallen into a depression during the pandemic? The possibility of returning to an environment where they can renew their daily interactions with teachers and classmates may represent the closest situation yet to a return to normalcy in lives that have been turned upside for most of this year.
Parents should also consider the general health of their children. Although parents and caregivers have found new ways to keep their kids active while at home, there is little substitute for the activities they would do in school.
Perhaps an even more important consideration in a child’s return to school is nutrition and food options. Although Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) have provided food relief for students and families through pick-up distribution, the daily breakfast and lunch options for children at school are hard to replace and could play a big role in an ultimate decision.
The uncertainty and complications surrounding the decision to restart in-person schooling are being felt across all societal levels. The individual characteristics of families, neighborhoods and other factors all weigh on a parent or caregivers ultimate decision.