Interaction with learners

Here’s what parents think about going back to school

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“They suffered in silence and it’s wonderful to have challenged them and in school this fall.”

First-grader Omar Charfane waits with his father, Nabil, on the first day of school at Hill School in Revere on August 25.

School is in full swing in Massachusetts, and it’s as close to normal as it has been in two years with no blended or distance learning alternatives.

While few argue that children shouldn’t be in school, the question of whether and when they should return to class has been controversial throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first year of the pandemic, the spread of the virus made confining students and their educators to classrooms unsafe, but as adult vaccination rates improved and cases of the virus declined, it seemed like back to school was underway. the horizon.

  • Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine works in children ages 5 to 11

  • How “Test and Stay” aims to keep more children in schools in Mass. in the middle of COVID this fall

In March 2021, Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration ordered all schools to launch a hybrid model for K-8 grades. Then, in May, classes resumed in person with only one month remaining in the school year. Now that the new school year has started, we asked parents what it feels like to send their children to class this year.

After more than a year of the pandemic forcing disruptions in children’s education and socio-emotional growth, most parents surveyed said they were ready to send their children back to school. Still, the gap was narrow: 52% of 70 respondents said they had no concerns about reopening schools, while 48% said they still had reservations.

“The value of in-person learning outweighs concerns about COVID at this time,” one reader said. “But that can absolutely change if the delta devastates our community.”

While there is a statewide mask mandate for schools, other COVID-19 precautions will be left to individual districts to decide. Baker and student education officials have emphasized a localized approach even as Baker’s administration demands the complete reopening of all schools.

“While I am delighted to have children back in the building, I am frustrated that the state has not made all mitigation strategies accessible by the start of the year,” said Nicklyn Dolphin, who has a child attending Sharon Public Schools. “The state hesitated between relying on local districts and taking charge at the end of the game. Last year, our districts had implemented pool testing in a transparent manner. We opted for the state program this year and therefore schools are open but asymptomatic testing has not started. [The Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education] can apologize left and right, but that should have been a priority and work on the program should have started in June. ”

Many school-aged children are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, although Pfizer recently said their vaccine was effective in children aged 5 to 11 and plans to seek clearance from the doctors soon. United States for this age group. In the meantime, masks will be mandatory at all times. For families in Boston public schools and other school districts who have agreed to comply, there will also be regular virus testing.

“I’m not happy to send my child to school without vaccination,” said Sushma P., whose child is educated in the Westford School District. “I want the authorities to wait for children between the ages of 5 and 11 to receive the approved vaccinations.”

Given how difficult it has been to determine the best path forward for reopening schools, it is no surprise that parents who send their children back to school have mixed feelings about reintegration. Several of the parents who responded to the survey shared their thoughts on returning their children to school. Below is a sample of their responses.

Are you concerned about the complete reopening of schools for in-person learning?

Answers have been edited slightly for length and clarity.

No

“Although I’m a little nervous my oldest started kindergarten in person this fall, I know she needs some social interaction with her peers after a year of staying in small circles and being home a lot. . There is no way to eliminate all risks from your child’s life and these are vital years for a child’s development. The school has been great in explaining the precautions it takes, staff and students all wear masks and practice social distancing. I will feel more relieved when the vaccines are approved for the younger ones and we can offer her additional protection against COVID. We do what we can to keep her safe and she is having the best time of her life meeting new friends and learning new things at her “big school for children”. – Anonymous, kindergarten to grade 8 child (ren)

“The kids went back to school full time in our city last spring. Children are required to wear masks indoors (except at lunchtime) but not outdoors, and there were no outbreaks in the spring or the first two weeks of school. Children have no problem wearing masks during school or extracurricular activities and sports. ” – Anonymous, kindergarten to grade 8 child (ren)

“No hesitation in sending them back. They have to be in school. They are as secure as they have ever been. ” – Anonymous, kindergarten to grade 8 child (ren)

“The kids have fallen so behind in the past 18 months. They suffered in silence and it is wonderful to have challenged them and in school this fall. – Anonymous, kindergarten to grade 8 child (ren)

“Children show no [severe] illness or hospitalization. All teachers and staff should be [vaccinated] now. There is no reason to be afraid of putting your children in school. – Anonymous, kindergarten to grade 8 child (ren)

Yes

“A new wave of infections from school socialization is inevitable. Some children will be hospitalized, others will have to be quarantined. The fact that distance learning is not an option is absurd and dangerous. – John, Cambridge, Kindergarten to Grade 8 child (ren)

“It’s a particular hell to have to choose between keeping your child’s physical and mental health, but not being able to choose both.” – Jessica vonGoeler, Arlington, Kindergarten to Grade 8 child (ren)

“To be taken away from remote options from families when younger learners don’t even have the opportunity to get vaccinated is irresponsible. Many policies to reopen schools were established in June before the delta variant skyrocketed in the United States. Across the country, workplaces are delaying returns and mask warrants are returning, but in schools, where hundreds of unvaccinated children congregate, the protocol is slackening and this is of great concern. No one will say that in-person learning is ideal, but we shouldn’t rush and act like things are back to normal when our child’s health is at stake. ” – Anonymous, Kindergarten and Kindergarten to Grade 8 students

“When Baker and DESE sold how successful schools were last year, they conveniently left out the two most important factors schools had in place: the remote and hybrid options, which allowed districts to maintain distancing recommendations and cut numbers. This year we have a more contagious virus, we know more about the devastating effect the long COVID can have on children, and we have forced everyone up into the building with fewer options. ” – Anonymous, kindergarten to grade 8 child (ren)

“My child brought COVID home from school. At the time [we were living] in Colorado while it was still denied that the virus even reached the United States. He and I were both very sick for over two months. I was rather shocked to discover the limited availability of online school places and had no choice but to send my son to the in-person apprenticeship. I’ll get him vaccinated as soon as I can. Every day, when I come to pick it up, I see first-hand the lack of social distancing, the children with their masks on their mouths and not on their noses, etc. The school is doing its best, I guess, but I would have much preferred to wait until the children could be vaccinated before returning to in-person learning. – D. Zuben Brayton, North Adams Elementary, Kindergarten to Grade 8 child (ren)

Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific indicator of readers’ opinions.


Are you planning to vaccinate your young children?

With lingering concerns about returning young children to school, we want to know what parents think of the recent announcement that Pfizer is seeking approval to administer its vaccine to children aged 5 to 11. Once the vaccine has been approved for this age group, would you like to feel more secure knowing that your children are vaccinated against the virus? Would widespread immunization of children ages 5-11 change how you think about your child’s in-person school attendance? Let us know what you think by filling out the survey below or sending us an email [email protected] and we can present your answers in a future article.