As the return to school begins in different regions, moms throughout the U.S. and Canada are weighing their options and trying to make the best choice for their families.
“It’s a brutal decision for all of us parents,” said Maggie Ethridge, a California mom of four, including a 9-year-old, who will be homeschooled this year.
As if choosing whether or not to send kids back to school wasn’t bad enough, most parents are dealing with a deep level of uncertainty. Many schools are warning that parents and kids need to be ready to switch to remote learning at the drop of a hat in the event of another shutdown. Some districts have announced plans, only to change them again.
That’s what happened to Michele Madsen, of Illinois. Her only son will be a junior in high school. Initially his district announced a hybrid model, where students would be in school two days a week. Her son was excited to return, but then the district changed plans, opting for fully remote through the fall semester at least.
“He wanted to go, but I’m relieved – I think it’s safer,” Madsen said.
One reason the district opted for remote learning was so that older siblings in high school could help watch their younger siblings when parents need to work. Childcare is a huge issue for many families this fall, especially in districts that aren’t offering any in-person learning option.
Jill Shepard, of Maine, is a single mom. She worried that she wouldn’t be able to help her first grader with remote schooling and manage her schedule working out of the house. Because of that, she opted for fully-remote learning for her daughter, who will be doing that learning at daycare.
“I was very worried that if we chose to go back to school it could be on a part-time basis that would make working very difficult as a one parent family,” Shepard said.
Many families that have members with health concerns also feel that they have limited options. Wendy Wisner, of New York state, has two children with asthma — one of them had to be hospitalized after an attack last year.
“That is a major part of my decision to keep them home,” she said.
She also felt that even though she works from home full-time, she has some flexibility to help her kids with instruction and take some of the burden off her local school district.
Hannah Fernald, another upstate New York mom, is thankful that her son with autism has the chance to attend school five days a week in her district.
“I’m team school,” she said. “Special needs [students are] going every day, which is great for my son.”
While many professionals are caught in the chaos of schooling during a pandemic, teachers are especially frustrated. Veronica Hatch, of Wisconsin, works in a district that is teaching fully-remote, but her three sons attend school in a district that is encouraging kids to be in the school building five days a week.
“I can’t work from home and home school three boys, but we also do not want the boys going to school five days per week yet,” she said. “We are still unsure what we are going to do.”
Tiffany Vest, of Illinois, wishes that she was able to send her four kids to the school building. Her district will be all remote through the fall. Since Vest and her husband both work outside the home, they’re relying on their two oldest to watch the youngest two and help with remote learning — a plan that isn’t ideal for anyone.
“While I understand this decision we are struggling like a lot of working parents,” said Vest. “I would have been okay with sending my kids to school a few days a week had our district decided on that. I would have trusted that the class sizes are smaller, they are avoiding large groups and taking the proper precautions and sanitizing properly.”
Like many parents, Wisner, the New York state mom, is just making the best decision she can, and hoping to make it through the 2020-2021 school year with everyone on track.
“I keep telling myself, ‘It’s only for now,’” she said.