Editorial: Parents must decide what's right for their families in back-to-school debate

  • Parents are grappling with decisions regarding their children's return to school and the restrictions that await.

    Parents are grappling with decisions regarding their children's return to school and the restrictions that await. Getty Images

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 7/14/2020 7:02 PM

In the next several weeks, parents will weigh what could be one of the toughest decisions they've ever made.

Do they send their children back to school next month, despite the continuing threat of COVID-19?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Or do they resume virtual learning, despite the very real challenges that option poses?

And how do you even make that decision with so many variables -- and uncertainties -- in the mix?

Illinois State Board of Education guidelines allow schools to reopen in one of three ways during the pandemic: entirely in person, fully remote or through a hybrid learning model. That means many parents will be faced with a choice. If they do opt for in-school learning, their kids will be packing masks and asked to follow other new guidelines.

Daily Herald reporters Madhu Krishnamurthy and Marie Wilson interviewed a number of parents for their recent stories on the back-to-school debate. Some voiced skepticism about children following distancing rules and keeping masks on for hours at a time. But parents also shared concerns that children who continued to learn virtually would miss out on key social interaction and fall behind academically.

"Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue reopening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff," said a joint statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AASA, the national superintendents' association. "Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools."

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But ultimately, the decision could rest with parents who may be grappling with questions and concerns unique to their families and the ages of their children:

Where would my children be most likely to thrive emotionally, socially and academically?

How will my children handle masks and other requirements?

Are there added risk factors that I should consider, either for my child or someone else in the immediate family?

Could keeping my child home have financial or other repercussions?

In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

At a time when heated debates over masks spur grocery store brawls, we would urge parents to support each other and not be so quick to judge. Stop before you question or criticize the motives behind another family's decision. After all, you might not know the factors that went into a decision -- or the potential fallout from making a different one.

There is much we don't know about how learning will look for the remainder of 2020. But we do know that parents shaming parents -- or anyone shaming parents -- is not the example we want to set for our children.

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