School reopening and the many, many, many concerns it raises, has pushed parents off course. We’re all left to wonder about everything from the big picture (Will my kid’s school actually reopen? If so, is it safe to send them back to school? Will remote learning be effective? Will my kids fall behind?) to smaller, but still extremely crucial details (What about the bus ride? What about the tech support virtual learning requires from parents? What about bathroom breaks?). The ambiguity of it all combined with story after story of schools shutting down quickly after reopening, makes everything more scary and unsettling.
Parents are in the unique, unenviable position of having to navigate their children’s education in the face of a global pandemic that has necessitated new rules, regulations, and options for schooling. It’s a scary time. And there are no easy answers. But it is helpful to know that, as a parent, you are not alone in your concerns. That’s why we spoke to 14 moms and dads about their biggest worry about the upcoming school year. From concerns about the lack of seriousness which other parents are treating the pandemic and about emotional and social growth of their children to those about bathroom breaks and the threat of little kids trading “cool” masks, they expressed worries that they are certainly not alone in feeling. Here’s what they said.
Are Other Parents Taking COVID Seriously?
“My wife and I aren’t huge fans of most of the parents at our son’s school. Let’s just say that the ones we’ve met share very different ideologies than we do. Up until this point, it was just obnoxious. Now, based on what we know about them, where they go, and what they represent, it’s become a genuine concern. None of them are shy about their beliefs on COVID, masks, and what’s going on in the world. And the scariest part is that it’s only going to take one kid to get infected, put everyone in danger, and shut down school again.” – Mathew, 35, Pennsylvania
Having to Home School
“Honestly, I don’t think the school year is going to last. I think there’s going to be a second spike, and kids will be sent home. And I’m not prepared for homeschooling again. The end of last year was such a clusterfuck, and then summer hit and it was like everything just vaporized and evaporated into thin air. Like, I didn’t retain anything about how to sign on to Google Meet or check virtual assignment books. Nothing. I’m going to have to learn all of that over again, on top of helping teach my kids the actual curriculum. I’ve had legitimate panic attacks almost every other day just waiting for it to happen.” – Charles, 40, California
All the Tech Support Virtual Learning Requires
“I know how to work an iPad, and I know how to open Google. But, that’s kind of it. Our daughter’s school offered the option for virtual class for this first quarter. We wanted to send her back for in-person, but then we started seeing photos online of jammed up hallways, students with no masks, and all sorts of other stuff that changed our minds. She’s in fifth grade, so it’s not like she’s going to have to do anything super high tech, but I’m really struggling with how I’m going to catch up to the progress that the concept of virtual learning has made since last year. Because last year was really difficult. I guess I’ll just have to learn by doing and hope for some luck.” – Nick, 38, North Carolina
The Size of My Child’s Class
“Last year, when our son was in kindergarten, there were 25 other kids in his class. They sat four and five to a table and were likely no more than two feet away from each other. Without masks. How is that possibly going to translate to this year, with social distancing and mask mandates in place? And, with only one teacher in the room to enforce everything? We’ve been told that more aides and subs will be on hand to help, but that’s still more bodies in the same place, and more potential people to spread the virus. Don’t get us wrong, we love the school, and we trust them, but this is bigger and more complicated than anyone can handle with any sort of certainty.” – Steve, 33, Illinois
Our Kids’ Social and Emotional Growth
“Our kids aren’t going back to school. No way. And we’re really worried about what that means for their social and emotional growth. There’s only so much interaction a kid can have with Daniel Tiger and Moby Max before the growth just stops. Our kids are both natural introverts, too, so being isolated at home just promotes that lack of interaction even more. They’re both about to become teenagers, so it’s a really important time for forming friendships, meeting people, and learning about yourself. How are they going to do that from the kitchen table?” – John, 36, Kentucky
What’s Stopping Kids From Sharing Cool Masks?
“I keep worrying that kids are going to come into my daughter’s first grade classroom with ‘cool’ masks, and that other kids are going to want to try them on. And, honestly, who would be there to stop them? If the kids are transitioning from classes or working in small groups — even with social distancing — there’s no way every kid keeps his or her mask on the whole day. No way. I cringe at the thought of kids playing with their masks all day long like they were books or toys in the classroom.” – Kelley, 35, Michigan
The Burnout Teachers Will Undoubtedly Face
“I have several friends who are teachers, and they’re already struggling with the logistics of teaching during this whole thing. And the year hasn’t really even started. Before, they were responsible for education and socialization. Now they’re responsible for sanitation, social distancing and, for most of them, young kids who are just itching to take off their masks. I can’t imagine the frustration. They’re massively under-appreciated and underpaid without a pandemic. I wouldn’t be surprised if this pushes a lot of them right out the door, which is a scary thought.” – Chloe, 37, Ohio
Can We Afford Tuition?
“I lost my job due to COVID, and our son goes to a private school. We honestly have no idea how we’re going to make it work. We’ve spoken to the administration, who are very understanding, but there’s only so much flexibility in that situation. I’ve been out of work for almost four months. My wife works, but we couldn’t send our son to this school on a single income. We’ve talked about public school, but only as a last resort. The only word I can use to describe everything is ‘unprecedented’. Losing your job is one thing — it’s happened to me twice before — but not being able to rebound because of such a global situation has caused more anxiety in our family than anything I can remember. Especially with school.” – Darren, 43, New York
The Anxiety Brought on By Social Media
“I really need to delete Facebook and Instagram. All they do is make me anxious about sending my kids into the world with people I don’t know. Most people seem to be taking the transition back to school seriously, and cautiously. But there are also a lot of people who aren’t. I don’t follow any of my kids’ teachers on social media for exactly that reason. I think my ignorance is bliss. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I stumbled upon a picture of a teacher out at a crowded bar, or somewhere without a mask. I’m very paranoid, both about my suspicions, and my lack of due diligence to confirm or deny them. It’s like I want to know, but I don’t.” – Ben, 38, New Jersey
The Quality of Virtual Learning
“My son is doing his first quarter of school virtually. And this isn’t a knock against his teachers, but the quality of virtual learning isn’t great. At least, it wasn’t at the end of last year. I get it, last year was chaos for everyone. But I don’t know how much could have realistically changed between then and now. It’s still going to be my son staring at a screen, losing focus, and getting distracted. It’s not the personal type of instruction that he’s used to, and that he engages with effectively when it comes to school. It makes me nervous that he’s going to regress terribly, depending on how long the virtual learning goes on through the year.” – Melanie, 32, Michigan
How Safe Will the School Bus Be?
“Our kids have to take the bus to school. How the hell is that going to work? They’re telling us that rules will be in place, like siblings being forced to sit together, and shorter bus routes to allow for less kids on each bus. But these are grade school kids under the supervision of one person whose main priority is to safely drive a 12 ton bus, supervising kids, while he or she is also wearing a mask. Even apart from the virus-related health concerns, I’m nervous about the kids’ safety. All it takes is one or two rowdy kids to distract an already distracted bus driver and cause a problem.” – Aaron, 35, New York
The Balancing Act of Work and School
“My husband and I both work full time, from home, just like we did at the end of last year. And the end of last year was a pretty big mess for our family. We have three kids — six, eight, and 12. We thought last year would be a temporary thing, so we rallied, scrambled, and made it work. But, knowing we’re going to have to do it again, probably for at least another six months, is incredibly intimidating. We’re planners, my husband and I. And as much as we’ve tried to plan for what’s ahead, how can you, really? Last year, every day was different than the one before, and that type of unpredictability makes us worry.” – Katy, 40, South Carolina
Who Can I Believe?
“I’m nervous about who and what to believe. I think the school district is doing the best they can with what they know. But, like all of us, they’re getting their information from someone else. At this point, how do we know what’s true and what’s not? I tend to be a pretty catastrophic thinker, so of course I’ve already imagined a bunch of worst case scenarios. And they all come from, ‘What if…?’ What if the teachers are told the wrong things? What if the school doesn’t have enough hand sanitizer? What if the kids aren’t always spaced six feet apart? Not being there is going to keep me worrying all year long.” – Anne, 34, Connecticut
How Bathroom Breaks Will Work
“How are teachers supposed to monitor what happens in the bathroom all year long? Even with supervised and staggered bathroom breaks – which I’m told they’ll be doing – teachers can’t go in the stalls or stand at the urinals the whole time. I don’t think kids can be trusted to wash their hands for 20 seconds each time, either. I’m not sure I could. But, even if they did, there are so many variables that make bathrooms the perfect places for COVID to spread. Especially when they’re filled with kids who’ve been chained to desks, wearing masks, six feet apart all day.” – William, 34, Florida