I have the misfortune of living in New York, but the fortune of not living in New York City. Compared to my fellow New York state citizens downstate, the situation where I live is magnitudes better. We weren’t the coronavirus hotspot of the entire world. But, unfortunately, the state seems reluctant to treat us differently than the poorly managed, densely populated New York City, which has to live under the regimes of both Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio.
Many thought the lockdowns would be quick. A couple of weeks for sure, perhaps a month at the maximum. Eventually, it became clear that there was no end date in sight. Suddenly, parents, who were already struggling with having their kids at home all day, had to face the prospect of school not re-opening before the summer. Making that situation worse, typical summer activities like day camps, sports camps, etc., wouldn’t be open either, so now parents simply had to hope schools would reopen in the fall.
And right now, we have no idea if they will.
On Wednesday, Cuomo announced that he’ll decide in the first week of August whether schools can re-open. And not knowing is perhaps the worst thing about this situation, because we have no idea what to plan for. Sure, it’s possible that schools might reopen. But even that doesn’t exactly give us much hope because no one knows what school will be like if they actually do re-open. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard all kinds of rumors of social-distancing plans being considered, and many of them aren’t all that appealing, especially for those with young kids. Many of us are hesitant to send our kids back based on hearing what might be on the table. Do we really want our kids to have to be schooled in a prison-like setting, where contact with other kids will be restricted, plexiglass dividers separate them at lunchtime, no gym or art, or who knows what else might be under consideration? Half-days and half-weeks are reportedly being considered, as is continuing the distance learning approach which I suspect many of us don’t believe was very effective and puts parents who still have to work outside of the home in a tough position.
Yet, the prospect of sending our kids back to school under prison-like conditions has many of us considering homeschooling anyway. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been researching the plethora of homeschool curriculums available and discussing forming a co-op with other parents. I don’t think most parents want to homeschool, but feel we’re not being given much choice. Our kids need to socialize with other kids, it’s an important part of their development, but if the environment at school is so restrictive that the benefits of socialization won’t be there, then why send them at all?
According to the CDC, the mortality rate for people ages 0-49 years is .05 percent — which is less than the seasonal flu. If we aren’t holed up in our homes because of the seasonal flu, there’s hardly any justification for keeping healthy kids out of school. Is there a risk? Sure, but data suggests that “the risk of death for the general population of school and working age is typically in the range of a daily car ride to work.” So, if the risk of dying from COVID-19 is comparable to the risk of dying in a car accident, can you explain why schools can’t open, but we can drive our kids around in cars without thinking twice about it?
But, hey, I live in New York State, so, schools are gonna do what Comrade Cuomo tells them they can do, and if he says they won’t open, we’ll homeschool. If he says schools will open but with some insane guidelines, we’ll buy a homeschool curriculum and make it work. My family luckily has some freedom to make this choice because I work from home and my wife works for a family business, but many other parents don’t have the luxury of choice. Some might have to choose between their job and their child’s education, and the state may force that decision on many families.
So, we shall wait and see, but we’re expecting schools to either remain closed or to open with crazy guidelines that don’t make school an attractive option. So, my son will likely be homeschooled in the fall, whether we like it or not.
Matt Margolis is the author of the new book Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trump, and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis