Dear Dr. Debbie,
So many uncertainties are looming. Working from home has had its challenges, on top of e-learning for my children, so at least with the summer break there’s less pressure to get them through their assignments each day.
I’ve been told that public schools will make a decision in late July about what school will look like – certainly less than all students in attendance all day, every day, and possibly a continued shutdown with 100% e-learning. Friends in private schools are likewise awaiting answers about schedules. Like me, all have trepidations about how safe an in-person school experience can be. Friends who are teachers are no less wary about being face-to-face with students, even if it’s less than a full class.
I’ve never seriously considered homeschooling as an option, but it sure would alleviate a lot of stress regarding my work schedule. Maybe we could pace a year of lessons around my work schedule by starting during the summer.
How do I plan ahead without a plan?
Decision-making around COVID-19 is tough at every level. Information changes weekly. Just a month ago I shared information about children in group settings, but there is still little to go on to keep children, and the adults with whom they are in contact, safe from COVID-19. Germs are easily spread between individuals through water droplets in our breath. Staying at home remains the safest option until there is a reliable vaccine and we have accurate testing.
Decision-makers for schools are watching to see what happens with rates of infection across the country as well as locally. And the childcare programs and camps that are open this summer will bear out whether safety protocols, including group size and wearing face masks, can prevent the spread of the virus. Initially summer camps were given the go ahead for outdoor programs to have groups of up to 10 (campers and staff), however group size has been raised to 15 people. Initially face masks were required of all staff and children, ages three and up, but that has changed to ages 9 and up.
A school district deals with large numbers of staff and students. Anne Arundel County Public Schools has almost 83,000 students at 123 schools. It is tough to change course for a ship that size. They need as much information as they can get to plot the course for 2020-21.
A quirky thing about COVID-19 is that it affects people differently. Some people get very sick. But some people who get very sick appear to recover fully. Some people die. Some people have no symptoms at all but can spread germs infecting others. With a two-week period of contagion before symptoms appear, and carriers who never have symptoms at all, this disease can be sneaky. Contact tracing has shown that people who don’t know they are contagious can unwittingly infect others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stresses they are working with “what is currently known” about the virus as they make their recommendations. Some comparisons have been made with other pandemics. Knowledge about the transmission of other viruses has helped for developing protocols for sanitation, temperature taking, and travel restrictions. But this disease is still new. We still don’t know if someone who has recovered from COVID-19 can catch it again nor what any long-term effects might be. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a young child’s exposure to the Russian flu in 1889-1890 increased the risk of death as a young adult during the Spanish Flu pandemic. Death rates in the U.S. and Canada during October of 1918 showed that behind the elderly and newborns, people who were around the age of 28 were most at risk of dying. Apparently early childhood exposure to the Russian flu lowered the body’s resistance to the second flu decades later.
Children like to know what’s ahead, trusting that their grown-ups can be counted on to make good decisions for them. Another few weeks of gathering information and considering the best options will be worth the wait. We’re taking chances with decisions that could have long term repercussions. In this unprecedented situation, everyone needs to exercise patience.
Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist with degrees in Early Childhood Education, Counseling, and Human Development. Workshops for parents, teachers, and childcare professionals can be found at: drdebbiewood.com.
Dr. Wood is conducting an online workshop “Little Kids at Hope” for parents and caregivers of children from birth to age five on Saturday, July 11. Register with Chesapeake Children’s Museum: 410-990-1993 or www.theccm.org.
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What do you think? Email your comments or questions to Dr. Debbie at editor[at]chesapeakefamily.com