I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville wife and mother with a passion for family travel, (mostly) healthy cooking, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries with you, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark.
July 15, 2020
So. Let’s talk about school.
And let’s talk about it with the caveat that I’m not trying to push a position on you here, and I’m certainly not telling you what you should decide for your kid. Each of us has our own individual set of circumstances and we’ve all got to do what works best and makes the most sense for our families. I’m simply sharing my thoughts here because I’m assuming you might, like me, want as much information and input and perspective from others as possible before making a final decision on what you’ll do with your kids in August. So you are absolutely free to agree or disagree with what I’ve written. I won’t argue with you. That’s not what this is about.
When the push for sending kids back to their schools in August began, I felt worried, of course. But I also thought there had to be research out there reassuring me that our kids and teachers and other school employees would be relatively safe. I looked for that research — and what I’ve found is troubling, at least for middle and high schools.
I think this story from the New York Times lays it out very well: The truth is that we don’t really know what’s going to happen when kids start going back to school in large numbers because no other country has attempted it with as much widespread virus spread as the US has right now. Republicans don’t know. Democrats don’t know. Doctors don’t know. Researchers don’t know. In other countries with lower virus spread where schools have reopened, it looks like outbreaks in elementary schools are relatively uncommon. Middle and high schools are a different story. There are multiple reports of outbreaks in middle and high schools and the virus appears to have quickly spread between students, teachers, and students’ families. Check out this news story about a middle/high school in Australia as an example:
The cluster at the school has grown steadily since families were first notified just over two weeks ago.
It is believed to have started with a grade six teacher, who is thought to have contracted the virus at a family gathering, and it has spread rapidly to staff and students. At this stage, 147 cases have been linked to the school.
To reiterate, ONE infected teacher led to 147 (and that number is still growing) cases connected to the school. Why would we expect outbreaks in schools here to be any different?
If you’re in an area where cases are relatively low, this might not be as much of a concern for you, but here in Tennessee, the virus is widespread right now and getting worse. Add to that the fact that there’s still hardcore resistance to social distancing and mask-wearing here and the dilemma is compounded. My kids’ schools are both planning on in-person classes right now. While we’ve spent the summer being extremely careful, I know for a fact that some of the parents of my kids’ classmates don’t believe in wearing masks and are out there ‘living their lives’ rather than limiting contact with others. Regardless of our efforts, in-person school will potentially expose my entire family to all the people these non-distancing families are being exposed to each day.
That concerns me.
Given the number of cases in our area, I think we can safely assume there will certainly be COVID cases in my kids’ schools this school year — and I foresee these cases causing major disruptions to their school year. If a teacher or student tests positive, wouldn’t the school have to close for at least two weeks? Would everyone at the school have to be tested before coming back? Won’t constant openings and closings and repeated testings and quarantining be far more disruptive to our kids’ learning process than simply opting for remote learning until case numbers go back down?
Honestly, it feels to me like we as a nation are being told to send our kids to be guinea pigs in a gigantic experiment that could result in serious illness or death, if not for them then for a teacher, parent, or grandparent. It feels as if our kids are foot soldiers being used to spread the virus in an attempt to create herd immunity. I don’t want this for them. For any of them.
ON THE OTHER HAND, I’m well aware that school is actually safer for some kids right now than home. And I know many parents NEED for their kids to be in school in August so that they can work and keep their families financially afloat. But this to me seems like even more of an argument for those of us who CAN keep our kids at home while cases are rampant to do so. More kids at home means fewer kids on the school bus and in the classrooms. Every kid that stays home gives the kids and teachers that have to be at school a better shot at staying virus-free. I don’t like the staying-at-home model any more than the next parent. I DREAM of sending my kids back to school with a clear conscience, and I acknowledge that every option for parents right now pretty much sucks. But I’m becoming more and more convinced that until things get better in our area, keeping my kids at home is probably the smartest and most socially responsible thing to do — both for my family and for our community. It’s not going to be easy. My kids want to go back to school and I’m deeply concerned about their social and emotional health. But I’m hopeful that if we do keep them home, it will only have to be for a month or two.
Those are my thoughts today, anyway. We’ve still got a few more weeks to decide. I’d love to hear what you’re thinking and I hope you see this as a safe space to share and offer polite feedback to others.
I’ve been saving all the news stories and commentary I’ve read on the issue to help us make an informed decision and they may help you as well. Here’s what I have so far:
The New York Times story I referenced above has been the single most valuable thing I’ve read on the matter so far:
How to Reopen Schools: What Science and Other Countries Teach Us
Another very good, very thorough article weighing pros and cons:
School openings across globe suggest ways to keep coronavirus at bay, despite outbreaks
German Study Shows Low Coronavirus Infection Rate in Schools
(Do note this study was conducted in a part of Germany where the transmission rate is low. This does give me hope that there is a caseload threshold when it’s safe for kids to be in school. I just don’t think we’re at that threshold right now in TN.)
NEW LINKS I’VE ADDED SINCE PUBLISHING THIS POST: