A: This is the pickle so many families are finding themselves in. Whether you began in school or are moving to a hybrid option, no one really knows what is the right decision. It’s pretty frustrating, but here’s something I know for sure: You have accepted the risk and sent your child to day care. I am not judging that choice; in fact, I’m guessing the day care is doing a good job with its safety protocol or you would have mentioned that your family has been sick.

And although day care so you can work is great, we know that children are suffering mightily from not being in school. It’s about more than the socializing aspect; the amount of time children are spending on screens not only prohibits learning, but it also causes a host of behavioral problems. Because elementary-aged children learn best through doing, play and guidance from a loving teacher, the screen is killing their curiosity and creativity.

“There are so many upsides to kids being in school, from their social/emotional health to parents being able to work,” said Lucy McBride, a D.C.-based internist who is treating patients for covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. “And if the school is following standard risk-mitigation protocols, like mandating masks, de-densifying classrooms, distancing the children by six feet and practicing hand hygiene, the risks of viral transmission can be made quite low.”

Ask your school what its guidelines are and how it will handle outbreaks. Will all families in the school be notified, or just one classroom? Also, is your family prepared to go back to virtual learning or day care if schools need to close again?

Only you can assess how safe it is for your child to attend school. Factor in whether anyone in your household has preexisting conditions or is immunocompromised, and decide if your family can truly handle getting sick. As McBride says: “We need to remember that every risk we take stacks up, and we bring those accumulated risks to school, work and wherever we go. Flu and coronavirus are spread in similar ways: person to person via respiratory droplets.”

No matter how diligent the school is, droplets have ways of entering the eyes, nose and mouth, especially with kids.

I wish I could answer this for you, but I can’t. You have to decide what is best for your family and the situation you are in, and determine how much risk you are willing to take. Talk to your doctor, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus data tracker site for rates in your state and assess your comfort level with the school’s safety measures. Armed with all of that information, you will be making your best possible guess.

We are all in this together, and we will get through it.

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