Vitally Important Questions About Returning to School
Yes! Conscious Parents Still have Choices About School Now
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein
By J.D. Newman, Educator and Writer
Even though many schools have opened, like everything else in this roller coaster time, parents may be faced with making yet another decision about their children’s education. To do this in a wise way, the following questions have been formulated to help parents make a decision that feels like the right one, just for now.
If you are a parent who is still stressing about sending your child to school during Delta variant outbreaks, the questions below will help you gather clear information you may not have. These questions are gathered from seasoned teachers, and recent research from highly respected medical and educational sources. They draw no conclusions for you.
You might notice, however, that there is usually a general question and then a very specific question on that same topic. This is a great way to clear away vague answers, and find out what you don’t know, as well as what you might already know.
First: Focus Up, Anxiety Down
Since safety is the first priority for your child, once you tamp down your anxiety, state this focus out loud: “For right now, I am just going to gather information about safety from direct sources.”
Aware parents don’t bet that what they heard from media sound bites or on social media covers everything that is important to school openings, they analyze facts straight from the sources involved.
So grab that phone, and push aside your old fear of raising your hand, while you just collect the facts.
The Critical Question List
It makes me very sad that so many parents who live in the states that have supported a “no mask mandate” position for schools, think that they have no choice except to drop their kids at the door of these schools every day. True, some of them have recently sued and won in federal court, to keep mask mandates, but other parents seem unaware that they have real choices, just for now. Instead of going to those specific schools, until this issue is resolved, those parent should be asking the following:
Question 1. Is there a “virtual academy” within my district? You might even urge your district to provide one, especially if your child is suffering any kind of anxiety from attending a school where they might be exposed to kids with no masks.
Call your district and ask, “Is there is a virtual school or academy available?” “If not, why not?” If so, ask, “How do I enroll?”
If the answer you hear is that no remote option is offered, ask if there is a state “K-12 virtual school” that is accepted by your school district. Is it free? and I how do we enroll?
Write the answers you collect here:
Questions All Parents Should Ask
Question 2. Is there a firm policy on mask wearing for all students? Yes______ No_____
More Specific: How many times (exactly) can a student take off their mask or push it down under their nose before they are taken out of the class to work elsewhere? What other steps will be taken to prevent this from happening again?
Write the answers here:
Question 3: What is the student to adult ratio in my child’s class? Note that a low student to teacher/paraeducator ratio is especially important in special education classes or in kindergarten or first grade. Safety measures and learning must be constantly monitored in those classes.
Write the ratio here: Adults______ per ____________students.
Question 4: How often per day are the students working in groups?
How is distancing monitored during this time and by how many adults?
Write the answer here:
Question 5: Breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
A. Where will the students be eating these meals? Check all that apply.
In the classroom ____________
In the cafeteria with their whole class ___________
In the cafeteria in staggered small groups_________
B. How many minutes long are breakfast and lunch?
What prevents these time periods from going longer?
C. In the cafeteria, how many feet apart will the students be sitting?
How many seats apart is that?
Will there be someone sitting directly across from each student?
If a student moves into another student’s space, or attempts to share food, how
many times will they be allowed to do this before they are removed?
D. Are snack times offered in class as well as breakfast and lunch times? How long
are the snack times? _____
Parents: Add up the total minutes of eating time students will have _________. Remember that this is mask-free time.
Question 6: What types of masks are students allowed to wear at school?
Bandanas or gator cloth “masks.” ______
N95 or KN95 masks _____
Disposable surgical blue on one side masks ____
If a student does not arrive at school with a mask of their own, what type of mask
will the student be provided with by the school?
Question 7: How many feet apart will students’ desks be placed in the classroom, measuring from the edge of each desk, not the middle?
3 ft. from edge to edge_____
Less than 3ft edge to edge____
4 ft. edge to edge ____
6 ft edge to edge ____
More than 6 ft edge to edge ____
How many students will be in my child’s classroom?
Question 8: What other Covid/Delta variant precautions will be used constantly at my child’s school?
Describe precautions in all areas including the playground (and the shared equipment), bathrooms, classrooms, and cafeteria, Covid signed attestations, etc. Answer here:
Question 9: If a student is asked to quarantine, how many days must they do so? ________
Can their parent decide to let them go back to school earlier that the length of that quarantine?
Yes ____ No___
If the answer is yes, then ask if the student will be studying somewhere else on campus, by themselves, or will they be allowed to be in the classroom, at breakfast or lunch with other students, or on the playground with other students and sharing the same bathrooms.
Answer here: (note—these kinds of parent directed returns to school before the end of quarantine HAVE happened in the past, so get clear answers now).
Question 10: How many students in my child’s class have to test positive before the whole class is quarantined?
Will I be notified if a class other than my child’s class has been quarantined?
Question 11: Given the variation and “averaging” discovered in some scanning thermometers, how does the district control the accurate reading of temperatures?
Describe answer here:
Question 12: Are classroom windows and doors kept open as much as possible like the CDC suggests? Answer here:
Do teachers have the option of taking their classes outside for lessons and spacing children 6 feet or more apart? Answer here:
If not, why not? Answer here:
Question 13 (for middle and high school): Please describe passing period procedures between classes.
Students all leave their classes at once, no monitoring of social distancing in the halls. _____
Each class is escorted in a line down the halls by a teacher or other school staff who makes sure no
touching or violation of distancing happens and all masks are left on. ______
Students leave, by themselves in shifts._____
Question 14: Buses.
Will there be an adult other than the bus driver on the bus to make sure students keep their masks on an maintain distancing? Yes___ No___
What is the distancing between students, both beside them and in front and back of them?_____
Can the windows be left halfway open on the bus for ventilation? _______
Question 15: Sports teams, choirs, musical theatre, dance, and clubs.
How will all the sports teams, performing arts, and clubs be handling protection from the virus? Can you please describe this in terms of the types of masks, expected social distancing, and physical contact for each group?
Write the answers here:
Physical contact for any group:
Once you read and reread the answers you have collected, go back and circle the questions you are might still be concerned about. Is your anxiety up because you received a vague or partial answer? Then call back and ask again.
If, however, the answers you collected don’t align with what you have read in valid research about masks, distancing, time with a group unmasked, any of the topics above, you might want to listen to your instinct. Again, you are only making a decision about your child’s health for right now. You CAN change your mind later.
For tips on temporary or semester choices for your student, see the upcoming blog, For Right Now.
Breathe parents, you can do this.