August 3, 2020
This past weekend, while surfing cable channels for a movie, I came across a Warner Bros. holiday film called “Unaccompanied Minors” which was released in the mid-2000s. For those who may not be familiar with this movie, it is a family friendly comedy based on the true story of a group of children and young teenagers who found themselves stuck under the supervision of airline staff after being stranded by a blizzard. Without proper supervision the kids naturally “escape” their designated room at the airport, spend the evening evading airline security, and just generally having fun!
With summer quickly coming to an end, and many fall classes set to be held virtually, there may soon be an impending wave of children and parents who find themselves in a similar scenario to those in the movie, albeit due to a very different type of “snowed-in.” As COVID-19 continues to make life very difficult in the United States, parents and schools are working to figure out what will be a practical way to continue education without posing unnecessary risks to kids, teachers, and parents. Popular options for the upcoming semester have been to shift totally to online teaching; having smaller class sizes and staggered scheduling; and, in some states, for students to return to classes like normal but with additional distancing and sanitation requirements.
Some parents will choose to homeschool their children rather than return them to school, but for many staying home is not an option. Virtual learning is not feasible for some families who have lost work and are unable to afford the expensive equipment and internet access that are required for online class. Additionally, those with local schools planning to open this fall may find the doors closed if any students test positive for the virus.
These scenarios have led to the reconfiguration of daycare centers, including installation of plastic dividers, to accept children while maintaining some level of social distancing. Other groups which are seeing high demand are those providing nannying and private education services in the form of “teaching pods.” These “pods” are offered online or in person for small groups, such as neighbors who have pooled together resources to hire a private teacher. Qualified individuals, including professionals who have been laid off during the pandemic and substitute or recently retired teachers, are able to command placement fees and wages varying from $30-$100 an hour, to teach these small groups of children.
While some scientific studies, such as those reported by the American Council on Science and Health, promisingly suggest that the young are less susceptible to the worst of the symptoms seen in Coronavirus cases, the decision to send children off to school or daycare is still one that cannot be taken lightly. I hope that by using the resources provided by the CDC, and with the growing number of creative options which are arising to meet education and childcare needs, parents will feel they are able to make a good decision for their family.