One mom’s viewpoint about balancing mental and physical health when making a controversial decision to reopen schools in the fall.
Please open schools 5 days-a-week for in-class learning. I understand that every school district and family has their own deciding factors, considerations, and concerns. This is my story.
In March, I was monitoring the news of COVID-19 spreading around the world. I read every news article and monitored every graph and projection. As a mother, the safety of my children is a top priority. My oldest daughter was on a gap semester volunteering in Africa and Asia. At the same time, my younger kids were blissfully attending school, unaware of the dangers around the corner.
At the drop of hat, everything changed. My husband suddenly set-up up a work station with 4 computer monitors in the basement. Preschool was canceled. 5th grade consisted of online math activities and a weekly Zoom call. I crossed my fingers and hoped that my daughter could fly home from Sri Lanka without bringing COVID-19 with her.
We did our part to “flatten to the curve”. My family has been social distancing for over 120 days (I’ve been keeping track). We are fortunate that none of us have experienced symptoms or direct exposure to warrant sticking the world’s longest q-tip up our nose.
But others are not so lucky.
In my Midwestern community, 1.4% of the population has tested positive. Over 7% of those cases have required hospitalization. Sadly, over 100 people have died as a result of COVID-19. The percentage of daily positive tests appears to have flatlined over the past month (consistently under 10%).
What do those numbers look like in relation to a school district?
My school district has approximately 25,000 students. Let’s assume that the statistics above are even across all demographics (they aren’t but play along).
- 350 students would have already tested positive
- 5 students would have been hospitalized
- 45 students will receive a positive test result daily (based on my rough math that 0.18% of the population is tested daily)
I cannot and will not deny that COVID-19 is present in my community. Nor will I deny the danger of COVID-19.
However, when I break the numbers down by school, or even classroom, positive COVID rates are nominal. Furthermore, the rates of positive cases and hospitalization for school-age children is quite low.
When evaluating the physical health of my children, I also consider their mental well-being.
The National Association of School Psychologists, NASP, states that mental health resources available in school support “academic performance and problem-solving skills”. Initial research finds that 20% of students “exhibited symptoms of anxiety and depression” after only a month of quarantine learning.
In addition to fears of food security, time away from school increases social isolation according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP. Identifying learning gaps, physical abuse, and depression is more difficult during this time as well. The AAP encourages districts to reopen schools this fall.
As a mom, I am keenly aware of mental health changes in my children. I quickly noticed signs of anxiety and depression in my daughters, as well as myself. Social isolation is a lonely place.
When the pandemic closed schools and daycares, many parents struggled to work and care for their children.
I am not suggesting to reopen schools solely as a means to provide childcare for working parents. But what are the alternatives? I mean, seriously. Without the assistance of a stay-at-parent or family member, parents are struggling to work and care for their children.
Many of my friends begin working at 6 am, take a long lunch break with their kids, break again for dinner, and then finish work after the kids go to bed. I do not see this as a healthy or sustainable schedule. And who is watching the kids while the parents work? Netflix and Disney+.
Are workplaces going to modify their schedules and expectations to fall in-line with schools?
School Starts Soon
School districts across the nation are currently evaluating all of the data above. Well, I hope they are considering all contributing factors.
At this moment in time, my daughter is scheduled to move into her dorm on time and my other kids are slated to begin school in-person in a month. I am cautiously optimistic.
My kids love, truly love, shopping for new school supplies. Currently, I am only purchasing supplies from stores with a 90-day return policy in case our school district switches to remote learning last minute. My college Freshman is begging for me to order her new bedding from Amazon, but with more than a month before she can move-in, I am going to wait.
At the same time, I am training my toddler to wear a face mask. Wish me luck.
The Future is Unknown
I don’t believe anyone knows, with real certainty, the true impact of opening schools for physical learning.
Some families have underlying health issues that impact their decision. Many will argue that opening schools is careless. Others argue that face masks are pointless. I am not here to argue about face masks.
I respect the viewpoints the others. If my logic has a gaping hole, please educate me.
Until then, I will stick with my opinion. Schools should reopen this fall for in-class learning. After that, I will take it day-by-day.
A Mom of 3 Kids