Many families are facing a difficult decision: should I send my children to school, group care, or preschool? There’s no one right answer for everyone — it depends on your circumstances, your needs, and your child’s needs. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to focus on the most important issues. You’ll need to weigh both the risks and benefits of your decision, and you’ll need to keep in mind that whatever you do, there will be some risks and some trade-offs.
What are your child’s needs?
Can your children learn in a virtual environment? Do they need in-person teachers and in-person peers to thrive academically and socially? What are your child’s emotional needs, and will they be best met through virtual learning at home or in a traditional school or preschool setting?
What are your needs?
Will you be able to work from home if your children are there? Can you arrange home-care if your kids can’t go to school? What will happen if your child gets sick or is exposed to COVID — will that create an insurmountable hardship? (If so, better to reduce the risk by staying home.)
How is your community doing? How about other families in your area?
People living in areas with high or increasing COVID transmission need to be more careful. And think about the other families in your neighborhood, or the other families who might be sending their kids to share your classrooms — are they social distancing, and are they trying to help reduce transmission?
What’s your school’s plan, and will they stick with it?
The CDC has published extensive considerations both for schools and preschools for the safest ways to stay open and take care of children, while protecting their own teachers and staff. Will your local center be following implementing these suggestions, and are you confident they’ll enforce the plan?
How well are you protecting your family in other ways?
if you’ve decided not to be careful and not to social distance nor wear masks, it would be much better for your community if you don’t mix your children in with others. Your decisions will affect many people, and your child may be the source of an infection that leads to an outbreak or kills people. Sending your children to group care or school will also endanger the health and the lives of their teachers and other adults who work in the facility.
What is the risk to your family?
If you, your children, or others who live with you are at higher risk of COVID complications, you will want to be especially careful about group settings that may increase exposure risks. You might need to balance this by deciding, for instance, that if you are going to send your children to school, then you will stop visiting with their elderly grandparents. Although children are less apt to carry and transmit COVID than adults, that doesn’t mean they never transmit the virus.
What about preschoolers? Are there special considerations for young children?
Children less than two should not wear masks, which is one important tool. However, they should still try to maintain social distance when they can, and wash hands, and learn “sneeze etiquiette” when they’re old enough.
Despite this, it does appear that young children are relatively unlikely to catch COVID, and unlikely to spread the virus to adults. That doesn’t mean there is zero risk — there have been several day care outbreaks — but the risk does seem lower than with older children.
Newborns and children with special health care needs are at increased risk compared with typical older babies and children.
We’ve decided to send our children to school. What else should we do now?
Remember, with your kids in school you’re part of a community — what you do can have a huge effect on the other children and teachers who might be exposed. You should be especially careful about following the instructions on this site, including social distancing and masking (for those unexposed), quarantining (if an exposure does occur), and isolating (if someone gets sick with COVID or COVID-like symptoms.) We are all in this together. If parents don’t help protect classrooms, all of this will fall apart very soon, and no one will be able to be in school. We have the power to make this safer. Make the right choices.