Back @ School: Yes…

Did you send your kids back to school? That’s the question we asked four Island Parent writers. Here are their answers and how they reached their decision on whether or not to send their kids back to school.

My kids are back in school in kindergarten, Grade 2 and Grade 4. As I write this, I feel my anxiety rising—and I am not usually an anxious person. I sent my kids back to school because our family’s mental well-being depended on it.

My husband and I have been working from home long before the pandemic. When the schools closed, life with us—as with most—became, well, more chaotic. Between trying to be teachers, employees, parents, playmates and referees, assisting with online school ate up all our daytime hours. Our kids love school, but they quickly lost interest in Zoom lessons, online playdates and online exercise classes.

After having nothing but family-time, seeing our friends again in-person was a relief. Our family of five got along much better. We all needed this time to interact with friends, especially after surviving a summer of no sleepovers or playdates with grandparents.

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At first, it was just the mandated 6-feet-apart driveway visits. Then finally, as things continued to open up, our newly formed bubble became close-knit and based on trust. We all fully disclosed everyone we had contact with and when to mitigate our risks.

Then, based on my husband or I needing to take a leave of absence to educate our kids if we continued to do the online learning thing, our kids, instead, went back to part-time school in June and we loved it.

In September, my daughter had a few unexpected twists and turns with her return to school so now, despite having already made an earlier decision to send all three kids back to school, we are considering her request to do online schooling, as she struggles with another transition.

When we were first considering whether or not to send our kids back to school, it was hard to gauge if there was a magic class size that made us feel more or less comfortable. With up of 60 people in each cohort, we would be interacting with more than half the school, 180 people in total.

The class sizes are the regular 20-22 kids. I feel we are accepting more risk with our classroom and cohort sizes (we enjoyed our small 8 kids per class that we experienced in June). However, our kids’ happiness—and ours—upon returning to school felt like it outweighed the risks.

The saddest part about returning to school was feeling forced to choose friends over family and school over grandparents. We can’t have both. We already spent the entire year isolating from the kids’ grandparents. Now that school has started, we said goodbye through the fence and said maybe we’ll see them in 2021.

During Christmas break we self-isolate for 14 days, then we can see the grandparents on Sunday, January 3, 2021. This is the only way we can ensure we are virus free. This isn’t a practical choice, because then it means we can’t see any of our friends over the holidays, breaking yet more traditions.

I would never forgive myself if we made one of the grandparents sick. We could be asymptomatic carriers. It’s heartbreaking to know we’ve all missed a summer of sleepovers and play dates and they will never get this time back. However, we are thankful that we are all healthy.

I worry about the toll this virus is having on our kids’ mental health and everyone’s mental health. I find myself questioning every cough, every sneeze, and every sniffle. I am the bodily function police for our family.

“Did you just clear your throat? Why did you clear your throat? Did you sneeze because you touched our cat?”

Every parent has this additional daily job now. With the poor air quality during the fires and smoke in September, my son had a congested nose. I debated if he could go to school. Would allergy medicine help? He also has asthma and so do I. My chest felt tight when I went outside in the smoke. Is it our air quality, I wondered, or is it COVID?

Not only am I the mom who sent her child back to school, but I sent him back to school with a stuffy nose. I fear being the family that brings down the entire school with illness. However, my allergy justification is that the rest of our family is fine, the rest of our cohort is fine, and the rest of our bubble is fine. But are we? Are we all asymptomatic carriers?

No one can say for sure without a test, which is why my son took a COVID test not long ago. We decided it was necessary after a headache and abdominal pain were added to the mix and we spoke to the testing hotline.

My son’s best friend—in his class and bubble—had the same symptoms. But we had been breathing the same smoke-filled air. Smoke or COVID? She took a COVID test, too. Thankfully, both tests came back negative.

How many COVID tests will we need to take this flu season?

I know we’re all just trying to make the best decision for our families. Hopefully, our school year will continue to safely proceed with a few extra sprinkles of caution and negative COVID test results. Perhaps, we’ll even be able to relax. That would be a nice first for 2020.

Serena Beck
Serena Beck
Serena Beck works full-time as a Technical Writer. She loves to write, travel, and swim at the beach with family and friends.