Whether To Send Kids Back To Classroom A Tough Call For Many Parents

Posted on:

< < Back to

ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — This was the first day back to school in the Athens City School District.

But not every child is going back into the classroom.

Last year, school was online for the first several months and then switched to a hybrid model with some days online and some days in the classroom. That was done under an emergency provision, and the state is not allowing schools to pursue this option again this school year.

But there are purely online schools in Ohio that offer an alternative. 

For many parents, the decision whether to send their children back into the classroom or keep them home another year has been a difficult one. For the past several weeks, as the Delta variant drives COVID-19 cases back up again to alarming levels, some Athens-area parents wrestling with this decision have been sharing their thoughts in online forums.

WOUB reached out to several of these parents, and two of them agreed to talk about their own decisions and how and why they made them.

Fan Jiang has two children, both too young to be vaccinated. Both are going back to the classroom. Her son is starting sixth grade. Last year was a challenge for him because he has special needs.

“And because of that his anxiety level hit an all-time high and he has shown some really aggressive behaviors … and that didn’t get any better until he was able to go back to school four days in person,” Jiang said. “And so, we just felt like being able to go to school in person on a regular basis … it really really helps. That’s just what we need. And so we just don’t think we have another choice, so we just have to take the risk of contracting COVID.”

Jiang said her son needs to be around other children, to be engaged in after-school sports, and to have more personal instruction and attention from his teachers.

Her daughter, who is starting fourth grade, had an easier time last year. Jiang said there was no point in sending her son back to school but keeping her daughter home. The school district’s decision to require face masks helped make the decision to send both kids back a little easier.

Jiang’s husband works full time, and while she doesn’t work a traditional job, she has obligations outside the house that were difficult to attend to with her children home all day. She said her son in particular required close supervision during his online class sessions.

“When he is Zooming … I almost have to sit right next to him to keep giving him reminders,” she said. “It’s like I am doing the school.”

Diana Ray has three children in school. One is starting eighth grade, is fully vaccinated, and is going back to the classroom. The other two, a fifth-grader and a third-grader, are staying home again, at least for now.

Ray said she and her husband have gone to great lengths to keep their children safe during the pandemic.

“For us it felt like, OK, this new wave is coming that’s even more contagious and we have spent all of this last year keeping them so safe, why would we now send them in when it’s even worse,” Ray said. “We went back and forth on it, to be honest, and it was something that caused us a lot of stress because we knew they were ready to see their friends, we knew that they had missed out on a lot.”

Also factoring into the decision is that Ray has stage four cancer. She has been on chemotherapy treatments for the past year and says she is on the good side of surviving the disease, but her immune system is compromised. She recently got a COVID-19 booster shot, which has provided some additional peace of mind.

She enrolled her two younger children into an online school, but just for the first half of the school year. She’s hoping that in the next few months, one of the COVID-19 vaccines will be approved for younger children and the two can finish up the school year back in the classroom.

Ray’s husband has been working remotely throughout the pandemic and is still working mostly from home.

“That has been helpful,” she said. “Had we had a different situation we might have been in more of a panic.”

Ray and Jiang both said they recognize that not all families are in a position to weigh their options when it comes to their kids and school.

“I do recognize that every child is different and every home situation is different, everybody’s jobs require different things,” Ray said. “Sometimes it’s not even a choice, you know, depending on your home situation. That’s what’s unfortunate — I think everybody wants to do the best to keep their kids safe and healthy, but … it’s not equal.”