As the fall months that usually mark the preparation of back-to-school approaches, parents and their children in many states are caught in a limbo between returning or continuing their education online.
President Donald Trump has been calling for schools to reopen in the fall, highlighting the burden that continued shutdowns place on both students and their parents who must find caretakers while at work.
“We have to open our schools. Open our schools. Stop this nonsense,” Trump said Thursday. “It’s only political nonsense. They don’t want to open because they think it will help them on November 3rd. I think it will hurt them on November 3rd.” (RELATED: ‘Stop This Political Nonsense’: Trump Calls For Schools To Reopen, Blames Democrats For Closures)
The American Academy of Pediatrics also gave a full-throated endorsement of returning children to school as soon as possible, citing the importance of in-person learning and the negative impacts of continued school closures.
“Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation,” the group said according to U.S. News.
Teachers unions, however, have been reluctant to return to work in the fall. The Los Angeles Teachers union United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) issued a notice calling for Los Angeles Unified School District campuses to remain closed ahead of its August 18 school year start date, calling Trump’s push to reopen a “dangerous, anti-science agenda that puts our members, our students, and our families at risk.”
Furthermore, Trump threatened to cut funding to schools that wouldn’t fully reopen in the fall and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said all schools must be fully operational in September.
Colorado’s largest teacher’s union has claimed teachers will leave the profession or refuse to return to school in the fall if a list of expectations are not met upon reopening according to the Denver Post.
Parents, however, are torn. While many are anticipating school reopenings so that arranging for daytime caretakers is no longer a burden and so that kids can resume education, some parents are also apprehensive about sending their children to schools amid uncertainty about the severity of the virus in the months to come.
Some schools have made unpopular decisions that displeases parents and the Trump administration. New York City Public Schools, among the largest in the nation, decided to implement a staggered schedule, allowing only a specific number of students to attend for in-person instruction a few days a week while the remainder of the week is remote learning, according to the New York Times.
Parents in Austin are similarly faced with a dilemma. Schools are expected to either reopen with 100% in-person learning or remain at 100% remote learning.
Some parents don’t have alternatives and will have to follow the directions of their children’s schools, even if that means scrambling to find caretakers during the day while at work.
Others have said that they may choose to homeschool their children if schools reopen but would enforce strict rules that could be stifling for young children.
Darcey from Michigan tells Daily Caller that if schools don’t reopen fully with no mask requirements, she’s going to homeschool her two youngest kids who are in high school and junior high, respectively.
“I will not send my kids into a building where there is no AC, to sit in a classroom without being allowed to leave or run around in gym class or even go to the cafeteria for 7 straight hours a day,” she said.
Distance learning, which in many cases was haphazardly put together by teachers with little notice or guidance due to the sudden mass shutdowns in March, was not effective for many students. When compounded with what teachers call the “summer slide,” when students forget what they learned during the school year over summer recess, many children may enter the next school year severely unprepared for new course materials.
“It was a joke,” Darcey tells the Caller, describing the “distance learning” her children were assigned. “My kids learned nothing and there was no accountability from the teachers.”
While the gap in education has been a major concern for parents, the mental consequences highlighted by the American Academy of Pediatrics have also concerned parents who’ve watched their children grow restless after months of cancelled extracurriculars, gatherings, and other activities.
Annette, whose children go to school in Texas, has firmly decided to send her children back to school, noting the mental health benefits of in-person instruction that she believes outweighs the possibility of a bad outcome from coronavirus.
“We cannot continue to allow this virus to dominate our lives, she tells the Caller. “My kids need to be with their friends and have a normal school experience.”
Other parents said that their school districts have proposed lengthy guidelines for returning, including mask mandates, but the option of in-person learning was still preferable to keeping kids at home away from their peers, and likely away from substantive instruction that can’t be replicated remotely.