Education is one of the most important issues for parents these days. When you have to be concerned about a rogue virus, educational decisions are much more difficult for administrators to make, and for parents to accept.
It is worthwhile to look at the risks and rewards of sending children to school in the current toxic environment.
First, the downside of remote teaching. Just about everybody agrees that children learn exponentially more in person than with a computer at home. The children who stay home for an extended period of time are losing valuable instruction that will not be good for their future advancement. It’s difficult to estimate how far behind students will be in one month, three months or one year when the pandemic ends.
How important is the socialization aspect of school at a young age? Is interfacing with other young people important to the maturation process? Most parents believe it is critical.
Interrupting the process for an extended period of time is noteworthy from many perspectives. Most important is the way children learn how to relate to one another and to their teachers. It’s not the same as spending time with a parent (versus another child of the same age).
Younger children need to have a significant amount of exercise in their curricula and space. So, keeping children engaged and cooped up in a small apartment for six months as compared to school with roomy classrooms, a gymnasium and a cafeteria, could have a significant impact.
Many urban children are dependent upon the free meals they receive at school. There is little doubt that remote learning results in some malnutrition. Not benefiting from these meals will put even greater strain on families as they try to fill the gap.
If parents must stay home from work to care for their children, they will lose crucial wages for their absence. Small businesses are having a difficult time and will likely be unable to accommodate parents with care issues.
The damage related to shutting down the country is difficult to measure. In the case of parents losing their jobs, the issues are fairly clear. Parents will not earn needed funds to care for and feed their families. And, the companies that these parents work for will be deprived of essential employees if childcare interferes with attendance. Above all, parents must first care for their children before the needs of their employers.
The overriding issue for parents who are hesitant about sending their children to school is the potential of infection. The more individuals that children come into contact with, the greater the chances that they will be exposed to the virus. But the odds of children coming down with anything more than a fever and a cough are slim unless they suffer from a serious health issue. The only deadly risk is infecting parents and grandparents.
Most schools that teach face to face have complied with masking orders and distancing between the students. This has not moved Mayor DeBlasio who closed schools for nearly a million students in NYC. Moreover, teachers are similarly protected against exposure to the flu.
In total, the sensibility of sending children to school is greater than keeping them at home. However, parents should be given the option to have their children be educated remotely. This is not a time to be forcing parents or students to do things they are not comfortable with.