Covid and the New School Year

I just read an article on SLATE titled, “I Have No Idea What I’m OK Letting My Kids Do During Covid Anymore” by Allison Benedikt. I was nodding and smiling the whole time I read it, cause yep, I’m in the same place. 

We are in the South. Our schools are not requiring masks, and our governor just made a rule that parents can opt-out of any mask mandates. The Superintendent of our school district made an announcement that our schools can’t offer virtual options when we have absences due to Covid. In a high school meeting we were informed that absences are a big problem and we need to have signed notes any time our kids are absent and make it a big priority to have as few absences as possible. Ok. Great message when you also don’t want kids to come to school if they have any symptoms at all. Our homeschooling co-op has a rule that if ANYONE in the family is sick, don’t come. Which is a pain in the butt when you have a big family, but it’s very effective at keeping any possibility of germs from showing up. But, public schools do not have that policy. 

So, my kids went to school the first week. Day three, one child came home and was not feeling well. By evening she had a fever. She ended up having strep throat and then three days later also came down with symptoms of the hand foot and mouth virus. Both of those are pretty common childhood illnesses that get passed around all the time. But, I want to point out something. Last school year my kids went to public school and wore masks. We did not get sick. The entire year. It was bizarre. No strep. No colds. No stomach bugs. And no covid. 

I talked to the nurse practitioner who saw my sick kids (cause yes, the strep and other virus both spread to all the other little kids). I asked her what she thought about masks at school and the idea that kids DO need to be exposed to childhood viruses so they can build their immune system. She hemmed and hawed. Wouldn’t commit to any stance (which is understandable, it’s a highly charged subject). 

I had one child who did not get sick. It was time to send kids to school, everyone from the elementary school was staying home except her. She had no symptoms. According to public school policy, I should send her to school. But, she COULD get sick. It was very possible that I would send her to school and then by the afternoon she could have a fever. What do you do? So, I gave her a mask and told her to wear it. No, it doesn’t block everything, but it does block some.  Hopefully it would make her less contagious. Well, when I picked her up at the end of the day, she was not wearing her mask. Said it was hot. Got annoying. Fortunately, she did not end up getting sick, but my thoughts of maybe sending my kids to school with masks kind of fell flat. Without it being a rule and someone enforcing it, there is no way they are going to keep them on. I also was talking to a therapist who works at the school and she said the kids who were showing up with masks were getting teased about it. 

I think the general attitude in our state is that Covid is a virus. It’s unavoidable. Like colds and the flu. Vaccines are available, but like flu shots, are going to be very limited in what they can do in the longterm, simply because covid is a constantly mutating virus. And so, we are going about the business of doing normal life with Covid. And it’s messy. No one knows what the rules are. No one knows who to listen to. The hospitals are filling up. When my father got sick with Covid, he ended up getting transferred to an out-of-state hospital. 

And us parents are standing on the sidelines, scratching our heads, hoping that we are making the right choices for our kids. But not sure. 

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