So, we’re having a bit of a tough time thinking through Anand and school. Here are the factors:
a) Anand’s starting 6th grade — 6-8 here is middle school, a separate school from elementary. So it’s a new school building, much bigger group of kids to interact with, etc.
b) Anand’s in dire need of friends — between his ADHD and his personality and the last year remote, we’re really lucky that he’s managed to maintain one good friendship over this past year. They talk constantly online, and thankfully, she only lives a block away now. But he’d be MUCH happier with a few more friends.
c) Anand turns 12 on September 24th, so he won’t be fully vaccinated until mid-November earliest.
d) Delta is not yet super-prevalent here, and Oak Park is 69% fully vaccinated, and a little higher with at least one dose. (But we do have people coming in and out of OP who live/work in less vaccinated areas surrounding us.)
e) Anand will be in a school building with mostly if not entirely vaccinated adults, mostly vaccinated 7th and 8th graders, and mostly unvaccinated 6th graders. (About 900 students) Everyone will be masked in the building, except for eating lunch. (BIG worrisome exception there, though.)
f) Kevin has been trying to crunch numbers on Delta, and it’s just really hard. He thinks Anand has at least a 10% likelihood of catching Delta this fall if he goes to school, and possibly as high as 50%.
g) It seems sort of ridiculous, after all the care we’ve taken, to run that sort of gamble with Anand’s long-term health when a few more months will get him fully vaccinated, and therefore much more protected. (May still catch Delta, but less likely to, and likely to have a lighter course of it if so.)
h) Yet it also seems really disruptive to keep Anand home — there’s no remote option at the moment, so we’d have to unenroll him and homeschool or unschool him until we were ready to send him back. He’d be adapting to middle school as a transfer student, essentially, which is always stressful, learning all the new routines, trying to make friends when most kids will have settled into their friend groups, etc.
i) We’re also not sure public middle school is going to work for him at all; separately from all the COVID stuff, we’ve been looking at the budget to see if we can do private school if Anand needs smaller classes and a more self-directed course of learning, which he might. (We can manage it financially.) So another option would be to just unenroll him, and then when we think it’s safe, start him at a private school that is much more chill.
j) ANOTHER option is to let Anand start next week with his class in public school, see how it goes academically, while it’s still relatively low risk for COVID, and be prepared to pull him if numbers go up. If they go up a lot, I imagine the school will also start pivoting to hybrid and/or remote — I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up hybrid or remote at the elementary-middle schools for Nov-Feb, say, when the cold-flu season is at its peak.
k) One more factor: Anand (and other kids) can only get the Pfizer vaccine at this point, which may be notably less effective against Delta. (Kevin got Pfizer; I got Moderna, purely by chance.) The data seems unclear on this right now, with conflicting reports.
l) We’ve upgraded our kids’ masks to KN-95s, but there’s no guarantee other kids will have good masks.
Whew. That’s a lot, and there’s probably other factors I’m forgetting to write out. But that’s where we are right now, deep in waffling land.
Kevin is a little bewildered that he’s not seeing more of this kind of conversation on his community lists, where people were deep into it last year, and is wondering if there’s something he’s missing about the risk assessment — he’s run a lot of COVID calculators, though, so he’s reasonably solid on the numbers.
I think people are just emotionally exhausted, and desperate to have kids back in school. Especially since so many kids really did suffer serious mental health issues over the year of remote. Perhaps people are feeling like they can’t support their kids’ mental health sufficiently, so they’re hoping to assuage that at least, and rolling the dice on the physical health. I’m not sure. Are we minimizing the physical risks, for our own peace of mind? I don’t know.
Anand’s school starts a week from tomorrow. We have that long to decide.
Kavi we’re planning to keep in school, though that makes Kevin anxious too. But she really had a very hard time with remote, and she’s vaccinated and hopefully most of her high school is too. So we’re just sort of hoping she doesn’t catch it, and if she does, that it’s a mild case. Sigh. Kavi’s high school will all be wearing masks indoors (except at lunch — and freshmen/sophomores are not allowed to eat lunch outdoors for complicated reasons).
Kevin and I are both teaching, but not very many hours in-person / week, and our campus is mandating vaccination and constant mask-wearing.