Parents reflect on back to school plans, health experts offer tips

As some districts prepare to offer in-person learning, some parents are glad this is an option.
Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 8:48 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2020 at 12:19 PM CDT
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MONROE/VERONA, Wis. (WMTV) - The first day of school for many kids is just weeks away, and every district has a different plan.

UW Health experts offered some tips to parents in districts that are offering an in-person component.

“There’s a lot of reasons why in person is probably better than virtual. But this year, we have to balance that with the health and safety risks of trying to do in person school during a pandemic,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer at UW Health

Pothof said parents should make sure they are clear on how school districts plan to implement safety precautions like masking and social distancing and try to prepare kids as much as possible.

“I think kids need to understand the why, why it’s important. And, you know, have those conversations with them. Ask them how they’re feeling about it,” Pothof said.

Verona Area School District parent Laura Kaiser wants her son to go back to school. Kaiser’s son will be a senior at Verona Area High School.

“There’s absolutely no substitute for in-person instruction,” Kaiser said.

Kaiser said she would not be comfortable with going back in-person right away, but if it is safe to do so at some point, she wants her son back in the classroom. She said she can’t help her son with everything he needs.

“The things that my son is learning right now in AP classes are nothing I even did in high school,” Kaiser explained.

Verona is giving families two options: virtual only; or in-person for kids in PreK to second grade and starting virtually but moving to in-person for kids in grades 3-12. Kaiser is going with the second option.

More than 30 miles away, the Monroe School District is starting fall with a hybrid model, though families have the option to stay all virtual.

“We’re trying to be smart but still live our lives at the same time,” said parent Theresa Robertson.

Robertson has two sons, a second grader and one just starting 4K. She said for the oldest, virtual learning was a challenge.

“It wasn’t as easy to keep him engaged for long periods of time,” she explained.

Robertson is glad her oldest son will have some in-person time.

“He needs that social interaction of seeing his friends and interacting with his teachers. And he, for the most part, likes school, and he, I love hearing him come home and tell me the things that he’s learned about the things that he did that day,” Robertson said.

She knows things will look different this year, but she said she is trying to prepare her kids as much as possible.

“Not trying to make it a scary situation but still emphasizing why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Robertson described.

Despite the uncertainty, Kaiser and Robertson both think the districts are doing their best.

“I know they’re setting up the classrooms to maintain that 6-foot distancing, they’re not going to be using drinking fountains,” Robertson explained, adding that it would be impossible to make a decision that made everyone happy.

Kaiser echoed that, saying, “I think that they’re doing the best job that they can given the circumstances that they’re given.”

UW Health’s Jeff Pothof said there has been some research that shows bringing younger kids back to school in-person might be relatively safe.

“Kids under the age of 10, not only do they seem to have a harder time contracting COVID-19, they seem to not transmit it as much,” he explained.

However, Pothof emphasized all districts should have a plan to go back to virtual learning at a moment’s notice.

For a list of what school districts in the area are planning, click here.

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