Walk through the aisles of Back to School supplies in your local stores and you’ll notice a few new items on the shelves. Face masks, hand sanitizers, antiseptic wipes and other virus-related items have joined backpacks, folders, pens and pencils as essential school supplies, thanks to the presence of COVID-19.

In most states, the decision about whether or not to return to in-person school is being made at the school district level, and there are still districts that haven’t decided on how they will start the new school year. In other states, the governor is deciding. Whatever the situation in your school district, there is sure to be controversy.

To Return or Not Return, That is the Question

Pediatricians and the CDC have advocated for returning our children to school as usual, citing the extremely low incidence of the COVID-19 virus among those under 18 years old. There is also significant concern about the effects on children of being isolated and missing social contact. On top of that are concerns that students have fallen behind academically, and online classrooms have been a poor substitute for being present in school.

Many parents are working, some from home and some outside of the home, and having the kids home every day has been a hardship. Arranging for supervision and trying to manage their children’s online schoolwork has been difficult to do, so many parents are looking forward to having their kids back in school.

But returning to school in person has millions of people worried about the risks. Parents are understandably concerned about the health and safety of their children, and teachers are worried about exposure to the virus themselves, and the possibility that they could carry the virus home to their own families.

Innovation and Creativity Offer Solutions

In light of the uncertainty, parents are stepping up to the challenge and are creating their own solutions. This fall “school” will look very different for many families. Here are 5 options parents are choosing for their children.

Homeschooling

Across the U.S., there has been a surge in interest from families who are seriously considering homeschooling. Many parents discovered last semester that they were more capable than they gave themselves credit for. Schools were scrambling to provide some type of academic activity, and many parents ended up being de facto teachers. And decided they liked it. So rather than depend on the school district to make a decision for the good of their family, parents are going to take on the challenge themselves.

Private School

Private schools are reporting an increase in inquiries from parents looking for options. Private schools, on average, have smaller class sizes and are not governed by the same restrictions as public schools. Many parents need their children to be in school so they can work, and they feel a private school may be better able to implement safety measures for their children.

Pods – In Person “Micro Schools”

Chatter on social media and online parent groups is showing an increasing interest in forming small private groups of students called pods. A couple of families get together and pool their resources, creating a classroom environment in one of their homes. Some pods are all family members, some are neighbors, and they are either sharing homeschooling duties for the group or they are pooling resources and hiring a tutor or teacher to come to their in-home classroom and work with the small group. It’s a modern take on the old one-room schoolhouse concept.

Mini Pods – Online

Very similar to the in-person pods or micro schools, this is a variation that allows for the teacher or tutor to conduct classes in a virtual environment. There are a lot of different conferencing or online schooling platforms that can handle live sessions with a teacher and several students at once.

Regular School Plus Tutoring

For many parents, these options may not work, and they are going to go with whatever their local schools plan to do while supplementing their child’s education with some regularly scheduled private tutoring. Many children lost ground academically when schools were forced to put together an online alternative, and parents are finding that having the one-on-one attention and support of a tutor is the best way to help their kids stay on track. Whether kids are attending school in person or online, the reality of teaching a large group of students at once is that some students are going to fall behind, some students are high achievers and will be bored. For these students, individualized private tutoring is an option growing in popularity.

For the 2020 school year, one thing is certain – it’s going to look far different from what we’ve all gotten used to.

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