Family,  Health related

Back to school in times of COVID-19

August 2020 – This year 2020, the summer time -and the school summer vacations- have been very different from other years. The threat of contagion from a virus that has spread throughout the world has caused many of us to remain isolated in our homes.

I wrote an article last March about the start of this pandemic https://fullofcoffeeblog.com/thoughts-on-health-alert-covid-19-coronavirus-global-outbreak/. Five months have passed and the Coronavirus, COVID-19, is still wreaking havoc.

Now it’s time to go back to school. Many youngsters are ready for changes, others are adjusting to these changes. Thanks to advances in technology, nowadays is common to hear that virtual or online school is not something new. I remember that when my oldest son entered middle school, sixth grade, the virtual school option was already offered in Florida. In high school, he took an online class to catch up on his credits.

Let’s go back in time. When I went to college, registration and registration had to be done in person. Living far from San Juan, without knowing how to drive or have my own car, I had to resort to staying with a relative to complete my registration.

When my son decided to attend college, we were able to do all registration and registration online. Only in his first year did he have to appear in person to bring some documents and receive his photo identification.

Another example is the children of my friend Sam in Colorado and my friend Lisa in Connecticut. Their children were already studying from home online, communicating with their teachers and doing their homework without leaving their homes.

My nephew Carlitos, attending school from home

With my knowledge in psychology and school counseling, I can tell you that our children depend on our decisions, as adults in charge of their well-being. Young people already in high school or university, can often take part in the decision about their education and how comfortable they feel with the option selected.

In my personal opinion, it’s important for children to attend school in person. They have the opportunity to meet other children, to learn to socialize and to form friendships with other children. It’s also true that they discover situations of children who abuse or make fun of others. It’s a process to be able to discern and choose with whom we can be friends and with whom we cannot.

My children have attended school in person, while I work outside the home. Although they have encountered circumstances of learning difficulties or harassment and teasing (bullying), they have been able to continue their studies by attending school in person. This was until the global COVID-19 pandemic came to disrupt everyone’s daily routine.

In the United States, the temporary closure of schools was announced in March 2020. From temporary, this closure became permanent for the year ending in May-June 2020. Many young people suffered from the suspension of events that mark the culmination of an important stage for many: the high school graduation.

My niece Fabiola at her high school graduation
in June 2020
My brother Francisco and his wife Marilyn attending their daughter’s graduation.
Students had to sit distanced from each other, and they had to wear masks.

With the closure of schools, the closure of businesses and offices was announced. Government representatives and public health officials gave the pertinent recommendations to take care of yourself when leaving the house. My husband, who also works for the hospital, has yet to report in person to his job. To leave the house, it is advisable to cover your face with a mask, keep a distance from other people and wash your hands or use disinfectants to avoid contagion.

I immediately asked my supervisors to allow me to work from home. Some of my coworkers had already made the transition, thanks to advances in technology. I work as a Medical Records Analyst and the hospital where I work has managed to update their systems to allow doctors to make their visit notes in this system, and for us to review these notes and send them where indicated. I was able to go work from home as soon as school closings were announced. My supervisors allowed me to take my computer equipment and adjust my schedule.

The children of my cousins Carlos and Alice,
Carolina and Charlie, ready for school.

This has proven to be a difficult task for many. In a country like the United States we see many people expressing their opinions publicly. Social media networks are filled with writings and videos of people complaining about the restrictions that have been imposed. Others complain about the flexibility of some states, when they began to allow the opening of businesses.

As the time to start the school year approaches, concerns begin for those of us who have children. What will happen this year? Are the schools going to open? Will they allow students to continue studying online? What will happen if someone at school spreads the virus?

Some of these concerns also affect young university students. My niece Miriam is studying her last year at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. Guidelines for students have been that most services and classes will be offered online. To visit the campus, students with appointments and professors will be allowed in. Every person must identify themselves, allow verification of their temperature and disinfect themselves at the assigned point of entry. Here is the information about this start of classes at the University of Puerto Rico (information is in Spanish) http://www.uprrp.edu/2020/08/historico-inicio-de-clases-en-el-recinto-de-rio-piedras-de-la-upr/.

My cousin Auranyd works at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and she also shared with me the guidelines for receiving students this year. A campaign was made to receive students, where COViD testing was conducted not only to students, but also to the faculty and administrative employees of the University. When negative results were obtained, each person is being given a band to identify them as safe to enter the campus. Likewise, classes will be offered online. For more information, you can visit their website https://tulane.edu/covid-19.

The measures taken by the authorities of the school county where I live, Orange County in Florida, offered three options to choose from: virtual school (completely online), virtual school with teacher assistance (connected during school hours), and in-person school (attend the classroom in person). Here is the information about back to school in Orange County https://www.ocps.net/students_and_parents/school_reopening_plan.

Before sharing my opinion on the matter, I decided to do a survey to collect the feelings of other people who, like me, would be preparing their children for going back to school. The results are interesting (for me they always are).

The questions were based on my own thoughts about the situation. What do they think of these changes? Do they agree or disagree with sending their children to attend school in person, or do they prefer the option of attending school online, from home? Surveys like this one only collect data and opinions from a small group. The results are used by me to make a comparison.

There were a couple of technical problems and a couple of logic problems on my part, as to how I asked the questions. The page I use does not count where the answers come from, it has marked them all as coming from Facebook. And I can tell you that I forgot to include the question about what gender was each person who responded, so I don’t have that information about how many males and how many females answered. I also did not include the question about the gender of the boys/girls.

Here is a quick summary of the answers. I received 33 responses in two weeks, and I am always grateful to everyone who took the time to respond.

Of 33 people who answered, the ages ranged from 24 to 53 years old and the average age was 42-43; most are married people and work outside the home. Regarding children, the majority have only one child in school and the age of the children who received the most answers was 7 to 9 years old.

I explain below the results of the responses I received:

Question 1, What is your age?: 31 answers, 2 omitted. The youngest participant was a 24-year-old, and the oldest participant was a 53-year-old. The oldest age group that responded was the group of 40-49 (13), followed by 30-39 (10), 50-59 (7), and 20-29 (1). As I already indicated, I forgot to ask the gender of the participants, so I have no idea how many men or women participated.

Question 2, Marital status: 33 answers, 0 omitted. 17 married, 8 divorced, 5 single but cohabiting as a couple, and 3 single, never married. In cases of couples who both live with their children, this question was answered by only one adult.

Question 3, Place of residence: 32 answers, 1 omitted. These answers are always interesting to me, because they show me the reach of social media and the Internet. I received 21 responses from individuals residing in the continental United States of America (US) and 11 responses from individuals residing outside the US. Those 11 responses included 10 participants from Puerto Rico and one person from the United Kingdom (UK).

Of the 21 answers from people living in the US, I received responses from residents of 13 states: Arizona (1), Colorado (1), Connecticut (1), Florida, my state of residence (7), Georgia (1 ), Louisiana (1), Maryland (1), South Carolina (1), New York (1), Tennessee (1), Texas (3) and Washington (1). Again, thanks to everyone who participated.

Question 4, How many school-age children do you have?: 33 answers, 0 omitted. 18 people responded that they have 1; 10 people have 2; 4 people have 3 and 1 person answered that they have 4.

Question 5, Age of children: here is another little logic problem (from me). The question allows answering about the age of a single child. People who answered having more than one child (14) could only choose the age of one of them. The answers I got: 2 in ages 4-6; 14 in ages 7-9; 7 in ages 10-12; 6 in ages 13-15; 3 in ages 16-18; and 1 over 18.

Question 6, Attending school: 20 children attend school virtually or online (internet); 5 attend online school, assisted by teachers; 6 attend in person; and 2 attend part virtual and part in person.

Question 7, How did they attend school the previous year?: 4 children attended virtually or online (internet); 2 attended school online school,  assisted by teachers; 12 attended in person; and 15 attended part virtual and part in person.

Question 8, What do you think about children going back to school in person?: 3 people answered that they completely agree; 7 people agree; 3 people neither agree nor disagree; 9 people disagree; and 11 people completely disagree.

Question 9, What do you think about children learning online?: 8 people answered that they completely agree; 17 people agree; 6 people neither agree nor disagree; 1 person disagrees; and 1 person completely disagrees.

Question 10, Do you work outside or do you stay at home?: 16 people answered that they work outside the home; 12 people work from home; and 5 people are not working. As I mentioned before, in the case of couples, this question was answered by one person participating in the survey. From the responses received on marital status, 22 people live with a partner and 11 people live without a partner. I know of cases, like mine, in which one person works outside the home, while another works from home or does not work.

It turned out to be quite an interesting survey. Interestingly, the 33 responses agree with what I expected. Most of the children attended school in person, or partly online and in person. Most of the children are attending school online, via Internet.

Most of the respondents do not agree that children should attend school in person (20 = 9 totally disagree and 11 disagree), while the majority agree that children should attend school online (25 = 8 totally agree and 17 agree).

The decision of whether or not to send our children to school in person is one that each one makes according to their feelings. In my very personal opinion, I think that although the proper precautions and measures are being taken to protect our children, I am not completely convinced that my child will not be at risk of being infected with this virus. Other people find that sending their children back to school in person is safe and the risks of contagion are minimal.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released its recommendations on going back to school while COVID is still a risk https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/Return-to-School-During-COVID-19.aspx.

We’ll see how our children are doing this 2020-2021 school year. We’ll see how this pandemic is resolved. Hopefully this does not last long, because we need to see each other again, to travel without so many worries, and to share with others without fear of catching a disease that can be dangerous for so many of us.

My cousin Alice with her son Charlie, ready to start school from home.
(We all feel you, Charlie, we do)

Thanks to everyone who participated and to all of you who read my stories. All photos used are from family albums, so thanks to my family for allowing me to use them.

Thank you for following me on this journey. If you’re on social media, I’m on Twitter as Nydia Raquel #FullofCoffee (@nydiaraquel25) and on Facebook you can visit here https://www.facebook.com/fullofcoffeeblog/.

As always, no matter where you’re from, what part of the world you’re reading from, or what time zone you live in, it’s always time for mi tacita de café. ¡Salud!

Para la versión en español, vean https://fullofcoffeeblog.com/el-regreso-a-la-escuela-en-tiempos-del-covid-19/.

I'm a Puerto Rican living in Florida. Mom, Blogger, and Writer! Fan of coffee, baseball, books, sweet romance novels and Hallmark movies, and of course, my beautiful Puerto Rico.

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