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To School or Not to School: Making Sure Decisions in Uncertain Times

Children in masks walking in the hallway

If there’s an upside to the 2020 adventure that’s been “childhood education,” it’s that parents like you have truly learned exactly what they are made of. Stronger and more resilient than perhaps you ever imagined, pushing past fear to face real concerns and make actual decisions about a whole host of topics:

• Uncertain school schedules (assuming school is open at all)
• New ways of working (juggling from home, wearing every hat imaginable)
• Worries about health and safety (compounding fears you instinctively already have)

It’s no wonder families feel they’re in a no-win situation: keep kids at home to minimize risk and limit their contact with friends and teachers—or—send them to a center or school where they can learn and socialize, but worry about health and safety. 

KinderCare understands that navigating such pros and cons is HARD.

“Families have much to consider when it comes to making a decision about what is best for their family,” said Dr. Elanna Yalow, Chief Academic Officer of KinderCare Learning Centers. “Fortunately, their fears quickly turn to relief once they see our health and safety protocols, the success we’ve had keeping our children and staff safe, and how excited their children are to be with friends and classmates. Once you move past the difficult decision, the rewards are profound.”

Of course, everyone arrives at this place at their own speed. When weighing the decision to return to a non-home learning environment or not, there are three helpful things to consider

1. Safety First, Last, Always
With its industry-leading protocols, KinderCare emphasizes that nothing matters more right now than health and safety when considering a center or school:
• Make sure the CDC and health department guidelines for masks and social distancing are being followed.
• Look for additional practices such as keeping children limited to small, stable student groups (or “pods”), limited access to classrooms, health screenings and temp checks at entry, handwashing throughout the day, and frequent cleaning and sanitizing. 

Knowing the protocols that teachers and staff take every day to keep your children safe can offer reassurance that you’re making the right move. 

2. Social and Emotional Benefits
Schools and childcare environments provide children with a safe place to advance their social, emotional, and academic development—all of which are made more impactful when shared with people outside of your immediate family. Gaining independence by playing and learning with others is vital to continuing the confidence your child is building for life.

As a mom who’s put her son back in school relates, it’s more important now than ever—beyond just hitting the books. 

“When COVID first started, my once sweet, carefree child was upset and frustrated with life. As we prepared for 3rd grade it became clear—we needed an ally in navigating this new abnormal. Connor now has friends to talk about and activities and crafts to show me—he feels normal again.” – Kristine Hall, parent of an 8-year-old. 

3. The Impact on You, Too
Once children settle into familiar school routines—learning, playing, growing—parents feel an enormous sense of relief; realizing it’s okay to let go and not have to manage it all. When kids thrive, parents do too—everyone gets back to being their own best “selves.” And nothing is more gratifying than gathering as a family at the end of a day to hear all about it: the pride behind a new accomplishment, curiosity about a new lesson, enthusiasm for a new game, giggles about a new friend.

“Routines can be comforting to children.” says Dr. Yalow. “Just think about how excited they are to rejoin their friends and teachers after a typical summer break. And we have seen all that enthusiasm magnified this year as children have returned to our programs.” 

When it comes to sending your child to school or to a childcare program during the pandemic, your family should get the information that will help you make the choice that feels best for you. Once you start that journey, you and your child will be glad you did. When you’re ready, know that there are safe and inspiring programs that can benefit the whole family—along with the support of other families who are experiencing the same thing.
Remember, we’re all in this together.

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