In Person or Virtual School? The 5 Critical Questions to Consider

Written by:

Anna McKay

This pandemic will not get the best of us. Moms everywhere are making sure of that. But one thing is clear – we are in a season of life that no one expected. And, while it’s a struggle, we will get through this one step at a time. With back-to-school season upon us, there are so many new and stressful things to juggle and coordinate. But the big question remains: should I send my kids back to school in person or virtually? In Houston, many schools are starting virtually with the option to go back in person later in the semester. This is a tough decision for many of us parents to make.

Some of us are feeling like we have no choice given our working schedules. Others are contemplating career pauses, creative childcare scenarios... and let's be honest, the occasional "I'll just work at night and be with the kids during the day" thought slips in every now and then. Who needs sleep, right?

We all want what is best for our kids. Protective momma bears are out in full force across the nation right now. We are defending our children from an invisible virus instead of the typical “bad guy”. With this new adversary comes the need for different tactics. When we are forming our battle plan for back to school season, what are the things we need to be thinking through?

“Should I Send My Kids Back To School?”: 5 Important Questions to Consider

It's important to consider these five areas to ensure we make the best, most informed decision for our kids and family:

1) Does anyone in your family fall into the high risk category for severe illness from COVID-19?

Health is a top priority when it comes to our families, and the data is clear that this virus can be deadly for those with underlying health issues. If that person is inside your home, this is of critical importance to decide what risk you are willing to take. If anyone outside of your home with whom you wish to remain in physical contact with is immunocompromised, they need to be a part of your considerations as well. And, if you do send your kids back to school, it may be best to limit visits with your higher risk family members to virtual only.

2) What does your local and state-wide data say?

Keep up to date on the latest Texas coronavirus data here and country-wide coronavirus data here. This data is updated frequently and should be considered when making your final decision.

The CDC has clear and specific guidelines based on scientific and health data that should be strictly followed. These include things like limiting playtime with other children if they return to school and staying home more often to limit potential spread. What is your plan around steps to take with your family should you return to school?

3) How is your school district handling coronavirus precautions?

Are measures being taken to ensure proper social distancing? How often and how are the custodians cleaning high-touch areas within the school? Will staff be diligently encouraging children to take responsibility by wearing masks, washing hands for 20 seconds, and social distancing? Every school district has their own guidelines and processes in place. Look up the details on what your district is doing and talk with your family about if it’s enough to make you and your kids feel comfortable to return to school safely.

In our family, we have been taking short trips with the kids where they practice wearing their masks. We have tried a variety of masks to find the ones that my kids like best and we have found some creative solutions for mask wearing. My daughter wants to glue buttons to her headband to loop the mask around. And, my girls are working on rainbow loom necklaces to attach to their mask and hold it around their neck if they need to take a sip of water or eat lunch during the day. Boys uniforms more frequently involve shorts or pants with pockets where they can keep their masks during lunch. It's important for our kids to understand the new responsibilities they will have this year in making sure everyone stays healthy.

4) What is possible given your work and responsibilities?

For families with two full-time working parents, the question of “should I send my kids back to school” is an obvious one for childcare reasons alone. It may be impossible to keep children home for e-learning without one parent pausing their career for a time. And this may not be financially feasible. Many families are considering learning pods with a small trusted group of friends. Whatever your situation is, consider all possible options - even those that you don’t want to consider. Write them down and think them over during a period of a few days. Talk them out with trusted family and friends. You may be surprised at some of the creative things that you think up, opening up even more possibilities. It won’t be easy, but this process will ensure that you have considered all options and are choosing the best one for your family.

5) What is your motherly instinct telling you?

Never dismiss your momma bear instinct without deeply exploring it first. Notice if there is something inside of you that just doesn’t feel right about sending your kids back in person. You should take that hesitation seriously. Talk it out with your family and with other parents. You know your situation, your family members best. Make the decision that feels right to you.

There are many more things that can be added to this list. But this is a good place to start. Involve your entire family (even your kids!) in this decision process. You want to ensure everyone is on board and there are no surprises. Talking through concerns and fears is a great way to alleviate stress for both adults and children. But, keep in mind that your kids may not love the answer you decide on. I know kids on both sides. Some desperately want to do e-learning and others are begging to be back in person. But they will (eventually) appreciate the process if you make them a part of it.

About Anna McKay

Anna McKay is a return to work and leadership development coach. She helps parents return to paid work and/or blend work and life with less stress. Let's face it, these are stressful times for moms in the work place. Having a support system to get through this time and thrive is something all of us could use.

Anna is a member of the ALLY faculty and holds 1 to 1 and group coaching sessions to support parents in the workplace or returning to work. Join her group coaching sessions or follow her through ALLY for more articles on parents in the workplace. 

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