As officials play political football with K-12 school re-openings, parents such as Johanne Davis are formulating their own game plans for the fall.
“To exercise an abundance of caution, I’d like to keep my kids home with me where they’ll study online,” says Davis, a mother of three from Indian Land, South Carolina, one of countless states where COVID-19 cases have spiked in recent weeks.
“Health is the issue, not just for my children, but also school workers," says Davis. "Teachers shouldn’t have to be frontline soldiers in this pandemic.”
Families across the nation are busy making their own calculations about whether to send children back to school. While Davis seems resolved, many parents are still mulling.
Most are taking a measured and hyper-local approach to what is ultimately a very personal decision, consulting with friends, neighbors and local educators. That's despite the issue becoming increasingly political, with President Donald Trump and state officials weighing in last week, often in conflict with published health guidance.
A week of chaos:Changing school reopening plans leave teachers, parents reeling
USA TODAY checked in with more than a dozen households. No matter their geographic or financial backgrounds, parents are often conflicted and confused. Some are keen to stay safe and opt for online classes, while others are willing to try partial in-person learning while keeping an eye on rising case numbers. And many are willing to change their plans if the situation demands it.
“This whole issue is nuanced,” says Jenna Schwartz of Los Angeles, a mother of two, former teacher and leader of an area organization called Parents Supporting Teachers.
“My non-medical opinion is it is not safe to return to school,” says Schwartz, citing mixed messaging on how susceptible children are to the virus and how easily they can transmit it to adults. “Is kids’ health more important than returning to school? Of course it is. But what if the inability to return to school forces a parent to lose their job and their insurance? That’s a different kind of health crisis.”
The confusion extends to the highest levels of government. Instead of a unified response, guidance seems to change almost daily.
This past week, President Donald Trump, a fierce advocate for a full fall reopening, appeared to go to war with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose guidelines he deemed too strict. The CDC ultimately did not significantly revise its stance.