covid 19 school in person

Whether or Not to Send Kids Back to School In-Person During COVID-19 Times

The decision whether or not to send one’s child to in-person school this fall is at the forefront of many parents’ minds right now. Here are some ways to help you have this discussion with your children, plus my own views below.

I initially wrote this before the 2021/2022 school year. At the bottom of this post I have updated data of COVID cases in the school district my kids would have gone to, 25% of students and 35% of staff contracted COVID during the 2021/2022 school year. Wow.

For the 2023/2024 school year we’re still going to partake in online school instead of in-person. This is partially due to concern over COVID and other respiratory viruses, which I explain further here, but also due to overall safety concerns, etc.

Have an Open Conversation

Even if your children are just entering Kindergarten, like my oldest is, have an open conversation with them. This is especially important as children get older to let them know how hard this decision is and that your #1 priority is to keep them safe.

I think the best thing you can do is try to talk with them about how they’re feeling about all of this. I say try because I know how closed off kids can be, especially about things that are bothering them, so I know it’s easier said than done!

See how they’re feeling. Here are some sample questions to ask:

  • Ask them what their friends are going to be doing this year and how they feel about that.
  • Ask how they’d feel if they were at home and their friends were at school.
  • Would they prefer to have the back and forth of in person then at home that schools had last year or have the consistency of being at home?
  • How would they feel about wearing a mask at school (if that’s what you choose to have them do) if their friends aren’t?
  • Would they be ok being different in that regard or do they think they may be teased or bullied do to it? (I so hope that doesn’t happen in the schools but sadly wouldn’t be surprised considering how horrible some adults are to each other regarding masks)

After the conversation, remind them that you are open to their suggestions and input and want to know how they feel about this. This is something relatively new to all of us and a hard decision, for sure. It’s also a decision that may need to change throughout the school year, depending on outbreaks and family decisions.

Also remind them that while you do value and respect their input, ultimately it will be up to the adults of the household to make the final decision based on what they feel is best for the health of the whole family.

Keep checking back with them throughout the first days and weeks of the school year, and throughout the school year, no matter what decision is made, to see how they’re feeling about it. It’s really important that kids feel they have input and are heard by their parents, especially if the ultimate decision is one they don’t like.

Mental Health Concerns

Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I was a school psychologist. As a school psychologist, I’m trained in psychology and education and obviously, worked in schools. I’m all about mental health concerns, though honestly am a little out of practice these days in keeping up with the latest research.

I have to say though, in terms of kids’ mental health with all of this, I often am left wondering what is more weighing on kids; not being in school with their friends and learning from home or having the back and forth that schools had last year and will inevitably happen again of in person, then remote learning, then in person, etc. It’s a lot to handle.

I have some resources specifically tailored to the mental health aspects of returning to school in the resources section of this post.

Making the Decision

Something for parents to keep in mind through all of this is that when we all look back, 10, 20, 30 years from now, whether you had your kid stay home this year for online or homeschool instead of going in-person will likely be a blip on the radar. Sure, we’ll all be a bit more socially awkward for a while if/when we’re able to get back into being social with others at normal distances and without masks, but that likely won’t be a big deal long term.

However, if they, their friends, their teachers, or parents end up sick with COVID and becoming a long hauler, in the hospital, or dying, that’ll affect them significantly more. That’s just my overeducated view though.

August 2021 COVID Spikes in Schools

With students returning to class, many unmasked, there have already been outbreaks.

In the state I live in, Minnesota, we’re just starting to go back to school. One school district in Southern MN has already opened back up and in just one week already has 42 people who tested positive for COVID which has led to 290 students needing to quarantine already. They’ve also reinstated mask mandates in that district for ages 12+ though honestly if I were them I’d have everyone be masked, but that’s just me.

The southern US has started schools much earlier than we do up here in the north. They’re already seeing countless outbreaks as well. Just today there was an article about how an unvaccinated, unmasked teacher infected 22 students and 4 parents with COVID after she came to school with symptoms. As we know though, COVID can spread even without symptoms, and the Delta variant spreads significantly easier and with a higher viral load than previous variants.

Though the CDC has strongly recommended that everyone wear masks indoors, especially those who are unvaccinated, such as children, many school districts are continuing to make them optional. The CDC director noted in this article that most schools seeing large outbreaks are schools that aren’t following the masking guidance.

Pediatric COVID cases are higher than they have been at any other time during the pandemic. More children are being seen in ICUs as well and needing to be intubated which is a horrible experience for anyone, but especially children. Though it’s still a small percentage of children who have been infected that end up needing to be in a hospital, the percentage won’t matter when it’s your kid. Two of my 3 sons had RSV when they were infants, one at 3 months old and one at 6 months old, having to see a baby hooked up to oxygen, a CPAP, or even a nebulizer is hard to see and something that I don’t want to relive with my own children.

A public school district in Florida already has 10,400 students and 340 staff who have had to quarantine due to COVID outbreaks within the first month of school. Click here to see the current impact of COVID on their district, they have quite a neat dashboard. Below is what their dashboard reported as of 8/28/2021, though the overall district impact is only 4.6% since they have such a large district, that is still over 5,500 cases reported so far and 11,130 that have had to be in quarantine. Note: the graph is kind of backward, the most recent is closest to the left and the oldest data is on the right side. I was really confused at first, I feel like most graphs are reported the opposite way. So this shows that their cases are still quite high though they have declined some since they reinstated a mask mandate. Their mask mandate will only last for a month though, it’ll be interesting to see what happens then.

the covid dashboard for the hillsborough county public schools, a random school district in florida showing how much cases had risen since their schools opened.

The scariest thing is a lot of people are still able to be outside right now, it isn’t even technically fall yet, much less winter when infections of all types tend to skyrocket. This school year is going to be intense for kids who attend in person.

My Personal Choice

My children are pretty young still, two of mine wouldn’t even qualify for preschool yet in the district we live in (they turn 3 in September after the cutoff in our state) and my oldest just turned 5 in June so is starting Kindergarten. I had been really excited for him to start Kindergarten in person and have a typical, fun, Kindergarten experience but that’s just not in the cards.

Instead, we decided to keep him home and he’s enrolled in a local school district that also has an online program. It’s been around for years so I feel much more comfortable with it than some that have just popped up over the past year or so since COVID-19 has been a thing.

Whatever the Decision

Whatever the family decision ends up being, remember it’s what you chose at the time and with the resources and data you had available. Most people probably aren’t able to stay home with their kids while they learn online as they need to work full-time to support the family so there really isn’t a choice.

If you can, do what’s best for your family and remember to check in with your students about how they’re feeling throughout all of this. For some students, questions will be met with simple yes/no answers, so just opening up the conversation more generally may get you further.


End of 2021/2022 School Year Update

I’m very glad that we opted for online/homeschool for our Kindergartener. Our local school district kept data throughout the school year and it turns out that 25% of students and 35% of staff contracted COVID throughout the school year, according to data from their own dashboard as shown below. The data was last updated on 5/27/2022, the week before school let out for the summer.

The school district did not have a mask mandate during most of the school year, except for a couple of weeks during the January peak. We are still extremely careful and we have even opted to postpone the early childhood screenings for our twins since they are still too young to be vaccinated and I don’t trust the mitigation at the school.

We will be continuing to have our oldest in online/homeschool for the 2022/2023 school year and likely beyond. Between COVID concerns and the continued rise in school shootings, I just don’t feel safe sending my kids to school at this point.

image 1
Image from our local school district COVID-19 dashboard.

Decision Every Year

Every school year since the 2021/2022 school year I come back to this post and update it. We are still going to have our kids partake in online schooling as we look toward the 2023/2024 school year.

This is due in part to COVID-19 including masking not being ‘a thing’ anymore and he’d be one of the few masked, that he has allergies so likely would be asked to go home often or have to take his mask off to blow his nose often, and I’m afraid he’d be bullied for wearing a mask.

Then add in the school shootings that keep happening at an increasing amount plus more and more we hear about how school resource officers and/or police officers have failed to act quick enough. I’m keeping my kids at home again this year, and likely will through 12th grade.

Whether or not to send kids to school in person in COVID-19 times text with question mark overlay in a classroom setting.

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As a mom of identical twins and a son two years older, I have gained invaluable experience in the realm, and chaos, of parenting. With a Master's Degree and Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology, I spent years as a school psychologist, helping children navigate through their educational and emotional challenges. Now as a stay at home mom and professional blogger, I combine my areas of expertise to help you in your parenting journey.

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