Back to School in a Pandemic World

By Elodie Nonguierma, Research Assistant, Center for Health Equity Engagement Education and Research

This time of the year (end of August- early September) has always been a bittersweet moment for both parents and children because this is the time to put back the camping gears, the bathing suits, as well as dialing down the in-prompt family gathering full of fun and laughter and get ready to go back to a set routine. It is the moment that children are looking for since they will be reunited with their friends and embark on a new journey however this year all of us were dreading this upcoming school year. Unlike last year, none of us had to worry about a deadly virus like COVID-19 and even with all the necessary precautions that health officials put in place since the beginning of this pandemic, we have yet to catch a break. If people were worried before for not being able to contain the spread of COVID-19, I wonder how they are feeling now that schools and colleges are back in sessions.

“Class is in session in Uruguay, one of the first countries in the Western Hemisphere to reopen its schools. AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico”

There are so many conflicting feelings right now, in one hand people understand the importance of in person education and the role it plays in one’s personal development so I can see why they are willing to send their kids to school while adjusting to the new normal (a lifestyle of social distancing and mask wearing). In the other hand, one might argue that for the time being (at least the remaining of 2020), people should make the ultimate sacrifice to keep their kids away from school and just home-schooled them at least until the COVID-19 curve  flattens, which will allow scientists to redirect their efforts toward finding a cure.  As great as this sounds, not everyone can afford to homeschool their kids and keep their job, so what would be the alternative?

As a recent graduate myself, I can speak to the importance of classroom friendship and the difference in dynamic for both in person and online courses. Some people do well in online courses and others struggle but the same could be said about the inperson classes. I think it is a matter of comfort level, if as a child you were always taking online courses going back to school this semester would have not caused so much controversy.

As a human being, we are each faced with a multitude of choices every day and we have to constantly make decisions and hope for the best. This situation is no different than any other one, maybe with higher stakes. In terms of this upcoming school year, there are two choices here: go back to school and perhaps be exposed to the virus or get your education from the comfort of your home while protecting yourself and your love ones. The choice seems simple to me but again one might say that I am bias, and I don’t disagree since I am a single woman with no child. I don’t really have to think about the logistics of juggling between my job, family and homeschooling my kids. So, when I say the choice is simple, I can only speak from the perspective of a student who has the choice to have class remotely or on campus. Obviously, I choose to have a remote education until the health official declare that it is safe to resume our old habits.

As a public health worker, I am more in touch with reality by checking the facts and the stats are not in our favor since the number of cases are increasing. I am terrified that school and colleges will become spreading grounds of COVID-19 if drastic and rigorous measures are not put in place to protect all the parties involved. As much as I understand the importance of having an educational routine, wouldn’t you rather be home-schooled for a year than take the risk to expose yourself to the virus and suffer all the consequences that come with it?