Thinking about school in the fall

Curious how everyone here is thinking about school/childcare in the fall. Have started to see what different districts are planning (mid-size Midwest city).

The biggest district is doing a 2/3 day split, alternating which students get Wednesday each week.
Two more districts have announced that their current plan is 100% in the classroom, though they have numerous contingencies around distance learning and the like, so that plan could certainly change.

Obvious given forum rules I don’t want to make this a political discussion (though if you take politics out of it entirely I still find it a fascinating balance of tradeoffs…) – I’m more curious about how other preppers are thinking about handling schools if they reopen/childcare if they don’t/impact on their children.

Our only child right now is not yet a toddler, so they are not personally impacted by schools, but my wife is a teacher, and thus obviously is. From everything I’ve seen on mortality the statistical risk to any of us given our age/health is roughly equivalent to that of driving 10,000 miles. The morbidity risk is still pretty unknown – as Mr. Stokes often brings up. From what I’ve seen my thoughts on that risk *to us* is trending in the optimistic direction -recent reports around T-Cell impact and potential cross-immunity from common cold strains (see: wife = teacher for analysis of past cold prevalence in our household) are driving much of that.

However, obviously our risk of transmitting it to grandparents and others is high if we are in school/daycare situations, which makes decision making a bit trickier.

I see several options (I work remotely, for context below.):
Wife quits job, takes care of kid at home (best for exposure/safely seeing grandparents – bad for wife’s career)
Wife works at school, but wears mask and hopes to not be overly exposed, in-home childcare for kiddo (made trickier due to wife’s potential exposure)
Wife works at school, kiddo goes to daycare, avoid grandparents (outside of very socially distanced settings) until we get it and are over with it.

That’s what our rough decision matrix seems to look like. Curious what those of you with school-aged kids and no teacher spouses are thinking.


  • Comments (12)

    • 2

      Emily Oster has written a excellent piece about decision making around COVID risk:


      She also has an updated roundup of current findings about kids and COVID risk here:


      This article about childcare that has been operating the whole time is also encouraging:


      That kids don’t seem to be as susceptible to catching or spreading the virus is one of the few positive aspects of this whole pandemic. We have chosen to send our toddler back to daycare given the current info available, despite keeping frequent contact with grandparents. His grandparents are all in their early 60s or younger, so at dramatically less risk than people in their 80s. Interestingly, my mom’s oncologist approved this decision, even though she is actively being treated for metastatic cancer. He believes that since she has no lung involvement, with her well-controlled blood counts the mental health benefits outweigh the risks.

      As for the options available…the huge number of (largely) women who are dropping out of the workforce to handle childcare is going to have long-reaching economic and cultural effects. I feel like I hardly see any discussion of it outside of circles of other working moms.

      • 2

        This is a great point. School is such a critical child-care resource in a country where most parents work out of the home – we can’t just shut it down and not expect severe ripple effects. The economy is bad enough now too…imagine what could happen if millions more have to quit in September. A lot of working women are employed in healthcare or front line sectors too (uh, hospitals or food anyone?).

        A friend of mine works in HR at a big company and said almost half their employees are already working reduced hours right now FROM HOME due to childcare issues.

    • 3

      I’ve got young kids under 5. They are going to in person pre-k as planned. This is a really, really hard decision and there is no right answer for everyone. But here are my thoughts. I still think most people don’t appreciate just how dangerous it is to keep prek-adolescent children away from their peers for an extended period.  People are so focused on covid, they can forget that other factors can destroy your health too. Daily, repeated social interaction with other children is a critical aspect of normal human development. It isn’t a nice to have, it is essential. On top of it, we were already dealing with alarming rises in mood disorders, suicidality, delayed social milestones and other signs of social/emotional dysfunction in children and adolescents before covid hit. What happens if we cut off peer-to-peer social development for a year on top of that? I’m seeing parents on social media already reporting that their kids are crying all the time, begging to see their friends, or just shutting down emotionally and losing interest in life activities. And that is just after a few short months.

      As a parent, I have to balance the very serious risk of covid19 with the very serious risk of attempting to artificially “pause” my kids’ social and academic development for a year or more. I’m realizing more and more that I can’t “sprint” my way to the finish line of this long pandemic. So I don’t like it, but I’m going to trust the American Academy of Pediatrics, hold my nose, and pick the risks of covid over the risks of extended isolation. I hope it is the right choice for us.

    • 2

      Our state will announce one of three possible school scenarios for the Fall. Until they announce the decision in the last week of July, all districts are preparing for all three scenarios. We purchased our 5th grade “only child” a laptop because two of the three scenarios involve distance learning. No matter what happens we will not be using either nutrition services or school age child care. I work in state government and have not been hearing that it is realistic for us to return to school full time with the status of the spread and what would be required for disinfecting, social distancing, transportation system, and personal protection. I am highly skeptical we will return in the Fall. I have given detailed feedback at several levels in my state about what needs to be done to improve distance learning. I am fortunate that I can work from home indefinitely.

      • 2

        Do you have thoughts about what ages distance learning is appropriate for? My intuition is that below middle school it’s going to be functionally worthless for ~90% of kids, and that even in middle and high school it is a substantial downgrade over in-person, both for purposes of education and socialization. Did it work well for your 5th grader this spring?

        My thoughts are definitely not super informed on this (I’ve seen some graphs about falling math proficiency but haven’t researched extensively) so curious to hear your thoughts.

      • 3

        NYC teacher here with public private experience. Distance learning is completely different from in-class instruction, and not just because of the isolation/platforms. Unfortunately, it takes 6-12 months of serious effort and trial/error to transition traditional classroom program to online delivery, and most schools are not investing in the change (hoping to be back in the building, don’t blame them; hard to push burned-out distance learning teachers to work through summer).

        I teach upper elementary, and have two younger kids at home. My youngest didn’t engage at all with the program, and I didn’t push it. My oldest–still elementary–was more interested, but I erred on the side of playing in the park, digging in the dirt and collecting wildflowers.

        The way most schools are approaching distance learning–trying to replicate in-class teaching through live online sessions–is actually worst practices, but it’s the easiest, simplest move. That’s why the younger a kid gets, the less-effective it is, primarily because they’ve yet to acquire the student skills of ‘sit there and listen’ that older kids possess.

        Social-emotional wellness is my primary concern in all this, but not so much socialization. Only children is obviously a different situation, and I know many parents near me with one kid who’ve had a rough time. If your kid is into it, face timing with friends can be fun.

        Global Online Academy is an excellent online high school, and also a fantastic resource for online learning practice. It’s geared towards educators, so a lot of it can be jargony/technical. However, it definitely sets the standard and it’s professional development is highly sought-after. One Schoolhouse is another good resource, again for educators but also offering high school courses.

        For parents of elementary/preschool kids worried about their kids falling behind, I recommend the following: let them explore their world as much as you are comfortable, constantly ask them “I wonder why that is?” and help them find answers to their questions. Read and listen to stories each day (getepic is a fantastic subscription site with a huge library of audio books and e-books). Make a piece of art each day. Build things, break things and get dirt under their fingernails.

        It’s really hard to be a parent, especially these days, so good luck to all.

    • 1

      We started homeschooling our oldest son this past school year. My wife is/was a high school teacher, and she’s taking at least a one-year sabbatical to homeschool him this year.

    • 2

      We live in the Bay Area and haven’t been told what to expect yet. I pulled my kid out of school a few days before our lockdown orders went into effect, because I could see the writing on the wall. Similarly, I don’t think our underfunded school districts will be able to provide the necessary supplies and oversight to keep our children disinfected and distanced in any meaningful way. I will wait to see what the schools propose, but in my mind I’m prepared to keep my kid home for first grade.

      In that vein, I wonder if I should be looking into any homeschooling resources or if I should wait to see what materials our enrolled school will offer for distanced learning.

    • 2

      Hi all! Thanks for getting this conversation going. I’ve been kicking around a story idea on this topic for our blog! I’m planning to figure out:

      1. How should parents prepare for kids to go back to school?
      2. What will kids need? How can they prepare (emotionally and physically)?
      3. How can we prepare parents and children for the uncertainty to come, or for a second round of homeschooling?

      What else would you all like to see covered in a blog post? I’m talking to doctors, child psychologists, and educators.

      • 2

        I think my questions would be roughly:
        1. How worried should I be about my child with regards to COVID? As I said, from the numbers I’ve crunched, it seems to be even better than #justtheflu for school-age children (with some potential commodities, primarily obesity)

        2. What’s the current state of the research around cross-immunity? If colds do provide cross-immunity, it seems like there could be benefits to having your child around others

        3. What are the dangers of keeping them out of school, educationally and socially (assuming physical isolation – not just homeschooling with seeing friends on the side, which I imagine would be largely fine).

        I’m sure there’s others, but that’s what I’m thinking about mostly.

      • 2

        I would like to see discussion of the long-term economic downsides for people (primarily women) dropping out of the workforce to take on full-time childcare. There is quite a bit of data around this in a non-pandemic context already. Deb Perelman’s piece in the NYT today touches on this: