Without a Vaccine, Should Parents Send Their Kids Back to School?

The guidelines suggest schools teach and reinforce hand-washing, encourage cloth face coverings, and post signs that promote protective measures. Importantly, the CDC encourages kids and employees who are sick or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 to stay home without repercussions. It also recommends schools are prepared by cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and buses, ensuring ventilation systems work properly, modifying classroom layouts, especially with desks at least six feet apart, and adding physical barriers when possible.

Making a Decision

Dr. Oster hopes summer camps will track cases, and that data will be available to parents by the end of the summer, but concedes that may not happen. “Camps are another form of kids getting together, in larger groups, with non-family,” says Dr. Oster. “They will give us a first peek at what school might be like.”

In the meantime, parents can track cases around the country by using resources like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s COVID-19 projections database, which offers an interactive map showing data like the number of cases in each state and the positivity rate.

Ultimately, parents will have to weigh the risks and benefits and think of their living situations, including immunocompromised family members. Like so many aspects of parenting, there’s not going to be a perfect answer. “Parents need to recognize that whatever decision they make, they’re never going to be 100 percent sure this is the right thing,” says Dr. Oster.

But we’re all in this together, meaning parents will have to play a part in keeping others safe. “Teach your kids that masks work,” says. Dr. Nachman. “Show by doing. Encourage them to talk about the medical benefits or reasons to wear a mask.”

Again, it’s more important than ever to try and keep kids out of school when they are feeling ill. “Mostly, what parents can do is keep their kids home if they are sick,” says Dr. Oster, “and encourage others to do so as well.”