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How to decide what to do about school in fall 2020

It’s time to decide what to do about school this fall. School in the 2020-21 school year is going to be different than ever before. Parents need to decide what is the best choice for school for their families.

Whoever thought we would be here?  Thousands, if not millions of parents worrying about what to do about school in the 2020-21 school year.  Because of the pandemic, our choices aren’t clear.  I’ve been thinking about it all summer, and I still am working towards making a decision.  I want to help you sort things out and get your mind clear so you can make a decision.  There are a lot of considerations and worries that you need to consider.  Let’s list them out.

Back to school 2020-21
Photo by Deleece Cook on Unsplash

Considerations

  • Education – Most families were unhappy with how schooling went in spring 2020.  Did your kids finish the school year strong, or do you feel they have gaps in their learning?  Are they falling behind?  Are you confident that the school district will remedy this in the coming school year?  Do you have a student who needs special services at school, and will that be happening this year?  Or do you have a gifted student, and if so, are they being served?  Many parents are very worried about their kids losing valuable time, falling behind, or not being adequately prepared for the future.
  • Safety in regards to Covid 19– Some families are very concerned about the likelihood of their kids contracting Covid 19 while in school and possibly bringing it home to other members of their families.  What safety precautions will be in place at your school?
  • The effect of masks on kids – If your child is required to wear a mask will it be a problem?  Do you trust him/her to keep it on all day?  Will it feel strange and cause your child to have trouble learning because he’s preoccupied with the mask? Will the teacher be wearing a mask, and might that affect your child’s learning? I know some parents and teachers are concerned that the masks prevent kids from seeing mouths which means they can’t see facial expressions.  Plus, kids with any type of hearing issues won’t be able to see lips for lip reading. 
  • Social distancing at school – I already touched on the concerns of parents who don’t want their kids to get sick.  But I also want you to think about the physical distancing measures and how they may affect students in other ways besides keeping them safe from the virus.  How will kids feel about being kept physically separated?  Will the sense of isolation be okay for your child? How will they feel about being told not to touch anyone?  If they are told to eat lunch at their desk or go home for lunch…how will that be for your child?  Find out what the school is planning and think about what everyday life in that situation will be for your kids.  Speaking for myself, I have one kid that I think will be just fine, and one that I think will be overwhelmed with anxiety.
  • Mental health, emotional and social needs – I’m very concerned that my kids’ mental health is suffering because they are isolated from friends and the outside world.  They need to be around other kids in order to develop normal social relationships. You need to weigh this for your family. Is protecting them from the virus worth the long-term emotional effects for your kids? Every family is different.
Distance learning

Possibilities for school in the 2020-21 school year

What is available to you depends on your school district and maybe your individual school.  There is a bit of overlap in my lists since this is so complicated.

Let’s start with public school, since that is where the majority of people were in the spring:

Public School options

  • Full-time school just as it was before
  • Full-time school with safety precautions in place such as masks, social distancing, hand sanitizing, temperature checks, etc.
  • Distance learning, meaning full-time online learning from home using the programs and lessons provided by the public school
  • A hybrid model that attempts to balance at school and at home learning.  Different school districts are coming up with different ideas, such as 4 half-days at school and one day virtual learning, or 2 days at school and 2-3 days virtual learning.

This will vary depending on your school district and the state in which you live. Many school districts are coming up with a choice for families so that you can choose what works best for you.  However, there is a chance that whatever you choose will eventually be changed.  For example, if you choose to go back to school in person but then in a few months the governor of your state says that we have to shut everything down again, you will be forced to switch to distance learning. 

At-Home School options

If you feel strongly that you want your child to stay at home, there are several options available to you.

  • Public School Distance learning – If your district is putting this into place, you may have this option.  I know our school district is working on this, plus there was already had an independent study option in place that the district will be expanding this year.  Check your school’s website and see if your district has that, too.  In the past, it was used for kids with special circumstances such as those with chronic illnesses or in competitive sports.
  • Virtual public school – Go to K12.com to learn about tuition-free online school.
  • Private online schools – There are lots of options here. You can do an online search and see what is available.  I haven’t researched these, so I don’t want to suggest any in particular to you. 
  • Homeschooling – while some people use “homeschooling” as a blanket statement to cover any learning at home, I have learned over the past few months in my research that there are actually very different ways to do it.  The three options I listed above are at home, but someone outside of your family is choosing the curriculum and making the plan.  You also have the choice to choose your own curriculum and plan.  This can be supplemented with online programs or you can use books and workbooks.  My next article will delve into this topic more thoroughly. Sign up for my email list to stay informed.

Want some help deciding which at-home learning option is best for your family? Click to read this article to help you sort through the choices.

In-Person options

Some parents’ number one concern is to get kids onto a school campus this fall.  If you are worried about your kids’ mental health, your child needs in-person special education services, or you don’t have child care options outside of school, you may be in this position.

  • Public school – If in-person school is what you want and your school is offering it, you’re all set.  At least for now.
  • Private school – If your district is not offering regular school, you could look into your local private schools and find out what they are doing.  They can make choices different from what the school districts dictate.  Although if stricter rules come from the county or state government, they may have to follow those guidelines.  
  • Other public schools – You also could look into what neighboring districts are doing.  You may be able to get an inter-district transfer to a nearby district.  I know some parents are even moving or renting apartments in other areas in order to get their kids into a different school.  I’ve also heard of kids going to stay with other family members or friends in different states in order to be able to attend school.  Think outside the box if that’s what you need to do.  However, I would keep in mind that just because another state is more “open” than yours right now doesn’t necessarily mean it will still be that way in October.
Socially distanced classroom
How will school look in the 2020-21 school year?
Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

Have you made your decision yet? If you still feel unsure, read on.

Let’s look at each possibility and think about the pros and cons. You can print this article out and highlight the pros and cons that are most important to you so that you can see it all laid out.

Full time in school exactly like before:

Pros

  • Kids are emotionally comfortable with this and know what to expect.
  • Socializing is easily possible. They can be with their friends and make new friends.
  • Teachers and students can get to know each other like usual so teachers can more easily address students’ needs.
  • Kids will be in school for the usual hours, so your family’s childcare can proceed normally.
  • Teachers will be able to do their job as usual and deliver a good education.
  • No cost

Cons

  • No protection from Covid 19
  • Some of your child’s friends may not be there if other families don’t choose to return.
  • The government may decide to shut schools down at some point, so this may not be available as a choice for the entire school year.

Full time in school with safety precautions:

Pros

  • Kids are back in school somewhat normally and mostly know what to expect.
  • Socializing is available, but possibly a bit different. They can see their friends and talk to them.
  • Teachers and students can get to know each other as usual, though possibly wearing masks.
  • Kids will be in school for the usual hours, so families can proceed with childcare normally.
  • Teachers already know how to teach in person, so likely the education will be good.
  • No cost

Cons

  • Exposure to Covid 19 is more likely than if the child stayed at home away from people.
  • Some of the child’s friends may not be there if their families decide to keep them home.
  • Masks may be required, which is a problem for some kids.
  • The classrooms may be using a lot of heavy cleaning products that your child will be exposed to daily. Toxic load could compromise their health.
  • The government may decide to shut schools down at some point, so this may not be available as a choice for the entire school year.

Hybrid School (Combination of in-person and distance learning):

Pros

  • Students and teachers get to see each other in person sometimes, which may be better for mental health than full-time distanced learning.
  • Teachers will have an opportunity to meet their new classes in person.
  • Teachers will more easily be able to teach than with full -time online teaching since they are used to teaching in person.
  • Some people feel that this is a safer model than full-time in-person learning as regards to Covid 19 since if kids are at school for less time, schools can keep kids more physically distanced by having smaller classes.
  • No cost for tuition

Cons

  • Implementing a hybrid model is incredibly complicated for teachers. It hasn’t been done before, so educational implications are unknown. Teachers have to figure out how subjects previously taught in-person can be taught virtually.
  • Some people feel that this model is no more safe in regards to Covid 19 than full-time in-person learning because since the kids are spending less time at school, they are spending more time at day care or on their own with other groups of kids, so the chances of each kid in a class catching the virus and then spreading it to others in the class is higher.
  • Hybrid is very difficult for families that have two working parents and need school to keep the kids occupied and safe during the day. For many families, this will mean an increase in childcare costs, or a reduction in income if one parent has to quit their job or reduce hours.
  • This model leaves middle school and high school students potentially unsupervised for many hours per week. This could lead to a rise in drug and alcohol use, risky behaviors, social media overuse, and internet issues including unsupervised access to unsafe content. Plus it could lead to an increase in the likelihood of exposure to Covid 19 if students spend their free time together.

Full-time distance learning provided by the school district:

Pros

  • Students would be at home, reducing their risk of catching Covid 19.
  • Masks won’t be an issue.
  • No cost for tuition.
  • It will be simple to sign kids up – it’s the same school , so it should be easy to get started.
  • Curriculum is handled by the school – parents don’t need to figure it out.
  • If the schools close again, you will already have your child used to working at home.

Cons

  • Students would be away from classmates and socializing would be challenging, increasing the risk of mental health issues such as depression.
  • Teachers and students will likely not get to meet in person and this will make it harder for teachers to get to know their students and connect with them.
  • Teachers will be learning a whole new way of teaching. Not only is this a lot of stress on teachers, but we do not know how effective the teaching will be since this is untested.
  • Students will be at home all day, so parents will need to supervise. This could be very difficult for working parents.
  • Kids’ screen time will be incredibly high.

Virtual school provided by a public or private established online school:

Pros

  • Students would be at home, reducing their risk of catching Covid 19.
  • Masks won’t be an issue.
  • There is no cost for tuition if you choose the public option.
  • Curriculum is handled by the school – parents won’t need to figure it out.
  • An established online school is not new to providing online education. They aren’t “figuring it out” while teaching your kids. The teachers already know how to teach virtually. The education delivered should be good.
  • If the schools close again, you will already have your child used to working at home.
  • Your family won’t be affected by any changes the school district makes later.

Cons

  • If you choose a private school, you will have to pay tuition.
  • Parents will need to spend some time researching which online school is the best choice for your student.
  • Students would be away from classmates and socializing would be challenging, increasing the risk of mental health issues such as depression.
  • Students will be at home all day, so parents will need to supervise. This could be very difficult for working parents.
  • Kids’ screen time will be incredibly high.

Homeschooling:

Pros

  • Students would be at home, reducing their risk of catching Covid 19.
  • Masks won’t be an issue.
  • Parents can choose a curriculum that is suited to their students. They can think about the educational and emotional needs of their children and choose something that will help them thrive.
  • If you are concerned about screen time, you can choose a curriculum that uses physical books and workbooks.
  • This could be an opportunity to really connect with your kids.
  • If the schools close again, you will already have your child used to working at home.
  • Your family won’t be affected by any changes the school district makes later.

Cons

  • Parents will need to spend a lot of time researching which type of homeschooling is the best choice for your student and which curriculum to use.
  • Parents will need to learn the laws for homeschooling in your state.
  • Parents will need to choose and pay for curriculum.
  • Parents will need to implement (teach) the curriculum. This takes a lot of time. However, there are parents who work from home and also homeschool their children successfully.

If you’re considering homeschooling, look at the Ultimate Homeschooling Bundle which is only available July 27-31, 2020! It is a collection of 51 resources to help you get started. Read my review of the bundle and find out what’s in it for teens and tweens.

Countdown Timer

Making your decision

I hope that my laying out these ideas in this way has helped you think clearly about what is right for your family. Like I said above, feel free to print out this article and highlight your main concerns so that you can see which direction you’re leaning.

If you have any more thoughts that I forgot to include, I’d love to hear from you! Please comment below. I plan to write more articles around these topics, so sign up for my email list to stay informed. And please pin and share to Facebook so that I can help others!

Summer planner for teens and tweens – free printable

Daily planner for teens and tweens – free printable

Ultimate Homeschooling Bundle – What’s in it for middle school and high school?

How to decide what's right for your family in 2020-21
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