Back to Hybrid

Our schools are planning to go back to hybrid on Feb 1 (both elementary/middle and high school), and parents are deciding whether to send their kids in person or not. I wrote up this for a community mom group, reposting it here, in case it’s helpful.

We’re staying remote. My husband and I are both professors, and have the luxury of being able to work from home this semester — much sympathy to those who are facing much harder choices. No judgement here for families who choose to go back.

A few additional thoughts (sorry for the length):

• Kevin and I are unhappy that teachers are being asked to go back before vaccinations, especially with community spread so high, the new more contagious strains arriving in America, and vaccinations around the corner for teachers

• we’re especially unhappy that communications seem really poor re: possible exemptions for in-person for high-risk teachers — just yesterday I was talking to some teachers at one of the elementary schools, and they said they hadn’t heard of anyone getting exemptions.

• I’ve also heard that there ARE some teachers staying remote, possibly because of high-risk, but it seems unconscionable to me that ALL the teachers (in both D97 and D200) don’t know exactly where they stand on that front.

• I know at least a few teachers have chosen retirement or leaving the profession rather than go back, which seems like such a tremendous loss to our community — it’s HARD and time-consuming, finding and training great teachers, and there’s a real cost, especially now, during a teacher shortage, to needing to try to find replacements

• it would seem to make much more sense to aim for third trimester, after spring break, when schools can start cracking windows for better airflow, when the warming air should help lessen the disease generally, when ongoing vaccinations should lessen community spread overall, and when teachers will hopefully all be vaccinated

• if I were on school board now, perhaps there would be more information I’d have access to that I don’t as a community member — I can’t say. I serve on the library board now, and board members read a LOT of reports that the general public doesn’t usually have in front of them, before making our decisions. Staff, I’m sure, read even more.

• but based on the information I have at the moment, I’m pretty sure I would have advocated for remote until the end of second trimester (I’m currently running for D200 school board, but even if I’m elected, I wouldn’t be taking office until May, when hopefully, this set of decisions will be behind us)

• especially since moving back to hybrid also means displacing Hepzibah and thereby forcing parents into sending kids back who might have chosen remote + Hepzibah [editing to note, per comments elsewhere, that I was mistaken here somewhat — there will be Hepzibah, including for full remote, but likely in a much more restricted form than what we’ve had up ’til now]

• I’m also concerned, on the community front, that the largest push for going back to in-person has been from white parents, and that Black and hispanic parents are much more likely to keep their kids remote (unsurprising, given how much harder hit those communities have been — one of my own Black college students had lost four family members in New Orleans by last April)

• I’m frustrated that some of the push for going back seems to have been motivated by concern for equity, and educational losses for Black and other marginalized students — it’s an admirable motivation, but going back now, with a much higher percentage of white kids returning, will only exacerbate those equity issues

• I’m concerned that teachers will find it exceptionally difficult to teach their remote students as effectively while also managing in-person students simultaneously

• for our own family, I’m a little less risk-averse than my husband; he’s very firm on keeping them home for the rest of the year, and I would probably be all right with them going back after spring break, especially my 8th grader, who is really having a tough time with the lack of socialization, struggling with motivating to do her work, get out of bed, etc.

• but Kevin’s probably right; he usually is on this kind of thing. (He’s a math professor, and statistical analysis is more his thing than mine.) Any academic losses our daughter should be able to make up in the fall, and if she spends some extra days in bed watching YouTube this spring, even if it makes ME a little stressed out knowing she’s doing that, that’s not as important as her health.

• I’m particularly concerned from talking to my pediatrician friend and doctor siblings about the long-term lung and heart effects of COVID on children. I don’t want to be a scaremonger, especially because mostly, we just don’t know. But that’s kind of the point — we don’t know, and just because kids are asymptomatic or have light symptoms (the sniffles), that doesn’t mean there aren’t some serious long-term effects.

• my kids aren’t athletic at all, but if they were passionate about athletics, I’d be particularly concerned, given the extra strain on the heart; pediatricians are now being asked to do screenings for heart issues that they hadn’t been asked to do before — to me, that’s a sign that there’s something to be careful about

• they’re testing a pediatric vaccine for 12+ now. And the testing for younger kids (5-12) is starting soon, hopefully this spring. I’m REALLY hoping that they have at least the high-school-age vaccine tested and approved before the fall.

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