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Drew: Weighing Your Family’s Risk Between Virtual or In-person Class

By Samuetta Hill Drew

Many school districts opted to begin the first six to nine weeks of the school year virtually for the entire district. Now time is steadily ticking for those districts to make a critical next step decision – virtual, in-person or hybrid classes.
Many school districts gave parents the option prior to the reopening of school whether they wanted a virtual, in-person or hybrid school model for their child(ren). If your public or private school allows parents to make this decision for child(ren), there are some safety factors which must be weighed before the final decision is made. These safety factors will help you assess your child(ren)’s and your family’s risk of COVID-19.
Last week’s article cited research findings that students with certain intellectual, developmental and/or medical complex health concerns were at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported as of “July 21, 2020, 6.6 percent of reported COVID-19 cases and less than .1 percent of COVID-19 related deaths are among children and adolescents less than 18 years of age in the United States. While uncommon, deaths and rare illness such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MISC) may occur.” Due to the newness of this disease, medical professionals and the scientific community do not know the long-term effects of this disease on children.
It is important to consider your family’s particular needs and situation, as well as your comfort level, with the steps your school or school district is taking to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The CDC devised a questionnaire for parents to use to help them make this all-important decision about your child’s educational instruction. The CDC suggests you reply to each question by answering 1-Does Not Apply, 2-Disagree, 3-Unsure or 4-Agree. Answering the questions below using one of these responses should help you with your child(ren)’s and family’s risk. The CDC feels these questions will address your views about how your school is preparing for school year 2020-2021. They suggest if you answer “unsure” to any items regarding your school’s plan, consider reaching out to your school administrator for more information. The questions are:

• I feel comfortable with my school’s reopening plans for reducing risk of spreading COVID-19.
• I believe my school has the resources needed to effectively implement their reopening plan (e.g., staffing, supplies, training).
• I feel comfortable with my school’s plan if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19.
• I believe my school has a plan to provide an effective program of instruction every day of the regular school week (generally five days).
• I am satisfied with how my school is addressing parent’s or caregiver’s concerns and questions.
• My child can wear a cloth face covering for an extended period of time, if required by the school.
• My child has a reliable mode of transportation to and from school (e.g., school bus, carpool, walk/bike, public transit).
• I am comfortable with how my child’s mode of transportation to and from school is reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 (e.g., decreased bus/transit capacity, wearing masks, increased cleaning, and disinfecting practices).

The 2020-2021 instructional learning is going to look different than in prior years regardless of the instructional model, but safety must be a part of your decision-making. Therefore, Keeping an Eye on Safety is even greater during this COVID-19 environment. Next week’s article will provide additional questions for consideration about virtual/at home learning feasibility during the pandemic.