As parents, we always want to make sure our children are as safe as possible. While we know we can’t shield them from everything, we want to make sure that whatever we can protect them from, we do.
Enter 2020; a time when no one seems to know the right answers; not even the experts. Decisions and guidelines are changed daily and what worked yesterday, doesn’t seem to work today. It leaves us concerned and just a little confused as to handle things like school.
My children are young – 3.5 and 1 – so they haven’t entered the school system other than Pre-K. My husband and I struggled with our decision on whether to send our daughter back to Preschool or letting her stay home with my mother-in-law until it’s safer.
I can let you know, the decision is very individualized, but I will give you information as to what our schools are doing and how we decided that it was okay to send our daughter back to school.
In addition, my husband is a high school English teacher in the same district that I am a speech-pathologist in and our conversations have been very different and difficult, to say the least. I will also give you suggestions and tips to ask your administration if you have children who are in elementary, middle, or high school to ensure their safety!
Is it Safe for Children to Return to School?
6 Things to Consider Before Making a Decision
Daycares and schools, in general, are germ factories. We wanted to make sure that if and when our daughter returned to pre-k, that the facility was doing everything in their power to ensure not only her safety but also the safety of staff and other children in the building. Prior to re-enrolling her, the facility sent us an email with accommodations and guidelines that they are following. These items included:
Staggered drop off and pick-up times.
It can be a crazy mess in the morning and afternoon when children are being dropped off and picked up, but they sent out a survey to make sure only a handful of children were being dropped off at a particular time. This made me feel safe because there were fewer people around and, obviously, less chance of transmission.
No one but staff and children are allowed in the building.
This was a little hard for me because I loved taking Nora to school, dropping her off, getting her breakfast set up, and saying “see ya later.” Especially this year, when she is moving up, it makes me sad that I can’t have that experience. However, I understand that this is just another step in order to keep everyone safe!
Temperature checks and hand washing.
All children and staff will have their temperatures checked upon entering the facility and every hour throughout the day. In addition, the kids wash their hands when they enter the building and periodically throughout the day (e.g., before and after eating) to make sure germ transmission is minimal. Anyone who develops a temperature or looks ill, will not be allowed to return until a note is received from the doctor.
Shoes that are to be used at the facility only.
We had to take a pair of shoes for Nora to wear at school and at school only. The shoes are then cleaned in UV light every night (along with other toys) to kill germs! They don’t leave the building, other than when they play on the playground.
Masks are being worn as long as the school staff feels it’s safe.
Obviously, when you are dealing with young kids, there’s the chance that they will keep playing with their faces, pulling masks off of each other, or even swapping masks (yuck). If this keeps occurring, the staff is allowed to make the decision if it’s safer for the kids to leave the masks off. Staff is required to wear masks all day.
We get an instant notification if something is wrong throughout the day if someone has been sick or any other communication they feel is important. We can also directly message the teacher questions or concerns. The facility sends us monthly updates to their procedures and if anything has been lessened or tightened based on COVID numbers in our state (New Jersey).
How are Districts in New Jersey Coping?
This is where it gets sort of complicated. Our governor has not mandated that schools go 100% virtual or 100% in-person; just that some sort of in-person instruction is required unless schools cannot follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or Department of Education guidelines.
These guidelines and recommendations are very lengthy and involved. Most districts in Northern New Jersey are deciding to go 100% virtual because they cannot meet the requirements that are set before them. I cannot go into detail about what those requirements entail because it would be about an 18-page blog, but I can tell you that they deal with:
Only certain filters can block out COVID-19 particles. Most school districts don’t have the minimum standard, let alone the “suggested” filter to make sure it’s safe.
Masks and social distancing
Students are required to wear masks unless there is a disability to a medical issue that prohibits them from doing so. Our district is saying, if that’s the case, then it’s being suggested that they are on 100% virtual instruction. This gets very tricky when it comes to bussing and social distancing in the classroom.
Hybrid scheduling is being implemented or suggested in many districts where the student population is too large. Most schools are doing alternating days of instruction for students, with a deep cleaning day in the middle of the week. When students are not in school, they are doing online learning.
Cleaning and sanitization
Cleaning and sanitization are being prioritized and done based on a cleaning checklist and schedule implemented by each individual school district.
Can I tell you that it is 100% safe for children to return to school? No. I can’t even tell you with a 50% certainty that it’s safe. I have to place my hope, faith, and trust in our school systems and elected officials to do what is safe and correct in this situation.
Does it make me happy? Absolutely not! I’m the type of person who would rather be overly cautious and have nothing happen, rather than being too lax and have people get sick or die.
You have to make the correct choice for YOUR FAMILY. If you want to keep your children home, then you should make the call! Trust your instincts and your gut! Just remember regardless of if it’s virtual or in-person learning, it’s still learning!
About the Author
Stacie Bennett graduated from Marywood University in Dunmore, Pennsylvania and has been practicing as a Speech-Language Pathologist for the past ten years.
Currently, Stacie works full-time at a vocational high school in New Jersey and has her own private practice. Prior to working at the high school level, she worked with the geriatric population and worked part-time for an early intervention agency.
Stacie specializes in child language, articulation, and executive functioning disorders. Stacie is also a writer for Speech Blubs Blog, where parents can find information about speech therapy and language development.