E-Learning or In-Person School – What We’ve Decided

About a month ago, our school district released re-opening information. Our school was offering two options– 5 day a week in-person OR e-learning. We had to choose one or the other by July 16 because school starts on July 29.

After talking with some kindergarten teacher friends, reading information from infectious disease experts and education experts, numerous discussions with Brad and close friends weighing all the pros and cons, we’ve made the decision not to send Owen to in-person school this year. He’ll be doing e-learning at home, and we hope to find and form a small group of other local kindergarten e-learners for socializing.

We recognize we’re very privileged to be able to enroll Owen in the e-learning program and complete kindergarten at home. Will it be easy? No, but we’re able to provide his meals, we have devices he can use, we have an Internet connection, he doesn’t have an IEP that requires additional support, and I’m able to scale back my work in order to teach him. Many American families aren’t in our position, and we realize that.

This pandemic has shown how so many of the systems in this country are broken and how much we depend on schools to solve problems, even though politicians keep making cuts to public education. I bolded that because we all should be raging about this. And you haven’t registered to vote, I suggest you do so. Research. Your. Candidates. Because if you can spend a couple hours watching Bravo or Netflix, you can spend a couple hours researching people who will make big decisions that affect you and your family.

Please know that I realize in-person school will be safer for some children. I’ve often thought about children in unsafe homes during the pandemic, and it pains me how they’re trapped with abusive parents or care givers. I’ve also thought about children experiencing food insecurity and children who have IEPS and need additional services that are tied to schools.

Our reasons for keeping Owen home is based entirely on our specific situation, the types of learning our school district is offering us, and the projected learning environment our district has conveyed in emails.

What Will Kindergarten Look Like?

My kindergartener teacher friends said learning in kindergarten, especially, won’t be fun this year. Here are the things we’ve been told will take place in our school:

Masks and face shields for teachers.

Masks for children.

No station work.

Minimal classroom activities.

Plexiglass partitions on tables because there are no desks in kindergarten in our district. This also means kindergarten students will be sitting closer to one another than students who are seated at desks. A plexiglass partition isn’t the same as being distanced three to six feet apart. So does that mean kindergarten students will have to wear their masks most of the day?

No circle time.

No rocking chairs for teachers to sit on for story time.

No reading corners.

This type of learning environment doesn’t sound like fun, especially for a child’s first experience with elementary school. And Owen attended play-based preschools for the past four years. All he’s ever known is circle time, free play, and group activities at tables and in the gym.

How are teachers going to keep five and six year olds engaged if the students are going to be expected to stay in their seats most of the day?

Class Sizes

What are class sizes going to look like? The average kindergarten class size was 25 students at our elementary school last school year. That’s a lot of kids to socially distance. So does that mean they’ll have to wear masks most of the day?


Our biggest reason for sending to Owen to in-person school was socialization. But what will socialization even look like in kindergarten? It’s not even going to be like the normal socialization we know with all the rules in place.

Our plan is to find and form a small play group with kids Owen’s age, whose families are also taking this seriously, so they can play outside and socialize.


Children crave consistency. I see the inconsistency of school closing and opening when there are outbreaks as having a negative impact on Owen. We feel we’ll be able to maintain better consistency by having him do e-learning at home.

The Stress Being Put On Teachers

We’re asking A LOT of our teachers, who we all know are grossly underpaid, to follow cleaning and safety procedures while trying their best to make education fun for our children. All while they put themselves and their loved ones at risk.

I know many teachers are having to re-work their curriculums to eliminate stations and group activities. That’s a lot of additional work being placed on them.

I haven’t heard anything about offering the teachers in our district hazard pay. Will the school district, state government, or federal government take care of their medical bills should they fall ill with COVID? Doubtful.

Will school districts give teachers paid time off should they contract COVID or will teachers have to use their own sick/vacation/personal days?

Potential Trauma

What about the potential trauma Owen could experience? The trauma of such a stringent, and likely anxiety-inducing, learning environment. The trauma of him contracting COVID and becoming severely ill. The trauma of Owen’s teacher and/or classmates falling gravely ill or dying of COVID. The trauma of Brad, Emmett, my mom, or I falling terribly ill or dying of COVID. Our family has experienced enough trauma the past two months with losing my stepdad and my dad’s strokes. I don’t know if we can take much more.

Pressure and Anxiety

We’d be putting all our trust in our five year old to not play with his mask, wash his hands regularly, maintain social distance, and follow the other rules put into place. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a young child, especially a rule follower like Owen.

While we’ve tried to not talk in too much detail about the virus in front of Owen, he knows about it. He knows the virus is the reason why he had to abruptly stop preschool and why Brad is working from home. He knows the virus can make people very sick so that’s why we keep our distance. He also knows Brad and I wash our hands every time we come home from an errand. Owen now asks if he needs to wash his hands after being outside “because of the virus”. If we sent him to school, I know he’d be riddled with anxiety over washing his hands and following social distancing rules.

School Procedures

Like I said, I know public schools are grossly underfunded and they’re receiving tons of pressure to open up with little support from the government. I don’t expect them to have all the answers, but there are some things that I’ve thought about that our school hasn’t yet addressed.

What happens if his teacher falls ills from COVID or another illness and a substitute teacher is needed? Will the school train substitutes on cleaning and social distancing procedures? Are there even going to be enough subs? Because it’s not like subs are well paid. And if I was a sub I know I wouldn’t be clamoring to substitute teach right now.

How will they handle fire drills? Tornado drills? Active shooter drills?

Lack of Research

Yes, the cases are low in children, but isn’t that mostly because the vast majority of children haven’t been in school since the spring? What about the 82 COVID cases linked to a summer camp in Missouri?

I know many parents have had to put their children in daycare. I haven’t read about many outbreaks, but what happens when the siblings of daycare kids go to school, contract the virus, bring it home, give it to their younger siblings, and then those siblings take it back to daycare?

We just don’t feel like there’s enough research telling us it’s safe to send Owen.

What Do Effects Look Like In 10+ Years?

COVID-19 isn’t even a year old yet. There’s not nearly enough research on the virus and its effects. And we won’t know the long-term effects of it for a couple decades or more. What if COVID is like chicken pox and it’s best that Owen never contracts it? What if in 10-20 years he starts developing lung or heart issues because he contracted COVID as a child? Why put him at risk if we’re able to eliminate the risk and keep him home from in-person school?

Rising Cases

I knew COVID cases would go up after the 4th of July– just in time our July 29th school starting date. (Our district runs a balanced calendar.) We don’t think it’s a smart idea to send Owen to school with cases increasing in our area.

And I don’t feel we can compare the US to other countries when it comes to schools right now. For example, German schools are back in session and yesterday Germany, with a population of 83 million, reported 159 COVID cases. Our state, with a population of 6.7 million, reported 452 cases on Sunday.

Wait and See?

A kindergarten teacher friend of mine, who actually quit a week ago due to COVID concerns, isn’t sending her oldest for at least the first nine weeks of school. She’s going to reassess the situation later on and determine if it’s safe to send her child after those nine weeks. But currently, she doesn’t feel it’s safe to send them— especially with cases on the rise in our area.

Our district wants us to commit to one learning method for each semester. So we’ll reassess everything as we approach the second semester of school. If we feel it’s safe to send Owen, we’ll strongly consider sending him. If it’s not, then we’ll continue to keep him home. Plus, I think it’ll be easier on him to keep him home and then send him, versus sending him and then telling him school is closed or we no longer feel it’s safe for him to attend school.

Parents Who Work

I honestly don’t know what to say to parents who have their hands tied. It’s insane to me that we couldn’t get a handle on this virus so parents didn’t have to choose between work and their kids. This article details most of my thoughts.

Staying Safe

By keeping Owen home, we’re mitigating his risk of contracting the virus and the risk of him spreading the virus. We’re keeping us safe. We’re keeping my mom safe. We’re keeping my dad safe when I’m able to visit him. We’re keeping Owen’s classmates and their family members safer. We’re keeping his teacher and their family members safer.

Epic Shit Show

This whole situation is beyond outrageous. This pandemic has shown how grossly incompetent and negligent this administration is, as well as certain state and local governments. Again, are you registered to vote? And this virus rages on because some people refuse to wear masks, social distance, or to even believe the virus is a threat. And it’s shown how selfish Americans are as a society. I’m not saying all of us. But a few bad apples spoil the bunch, no?

I think we can all agree that this is an epic shit show. But many of us are doing that best we can under our circumstances.

The US has the world’s largest economy, but we look like the world’s biggest imbeciles because we also lead the world in COVID cases and deaths.

source: John Hopkins CSSE on July 13, 2020

Here are some articles I read and interviews I watched:

Will Schools Be Safe in the Fall? Experts Weigh In

This is an interesting FB post by a Special Education teacher

This is an article about Coronavirus autopsies and what they tell us about what the virus does to the body.

If you haven’t yet, watch this interview with Betsy DeVos, secretary of education. There is no national plan to reopen schools. They’re putting everything on states and local school districts. This is not leadership.

I watch Laurel’s Instagram Stories daily. Duh. She has a couple highlights on schools.

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  1. We just made the exact same decision for our incoming kindergartner, for many of the same reasons you highlighted. We too are hoping to form a small social group for some peer interaction. We are so fortunate in that I’m the breadwinner and my husband can stay home with him and our younger child (we just moved so he was between jobs). I am SO angry that it had to be this way and sad about the milestones he’s missing. But I’m grateful we have this choice and that he is healthy. I’m mostly infuriated at the inept response of this administration. Best of luck with your kindergarten experience! Will look to your blog for ideas!

  2. Thanks for this. My husband is a teacher and will most likely be forced to go back to teach in person with now hazard pay and 5 cloth masks as his PPE. We have decided that I will continue to work from home and we are keeping my almost 4 yo home for the year. She’s also only known play based so sending her to a preschool where they’ve removed most of the toys sounds awful. Hoping we can make it work and that my husband can stay healthy. I feel awful for the parents who don’t have a choice and am ragey at companies that require a return to work of people.who have spent the last 4 months proving they can be as productive working from home.

  3. So appreciate your perspective on this… I agree with everything you said here and yet I’m still considering my senior in high school to school. I’m terrified but I’ve also been fairly comfortable/confident with the steps our state government has taken. I couldn’t imagine living in a state where I disagreed with the governor’s approach. Appreciate your information and activism. Please please continue sharing.

  4. I think you are being so smart!! This year school is not going to be anything close to what kids are used to. I taught for 32 years, the last 8 in 2nd grade and kids need to move! They cannot sit at a desk (most primary classrooms that I know of don’t even have desks, they have tables), all day and not have interactions. All of your points are spot on!!! Yes, I’m voting!! ❤

  5. Thank you for this. We’re having to make a similar decision for our preschooler this week.

  6. This is such a well thought out post! I have also decided to do e-learning with my two middle school aged daughters. I feel like I have a lot less anxiety about it now that I have made that decision. And yes, I feel very fortunate that I can easily stay home and do this, but even if I didn’t have that privilege, I would try my best to find a way to minimize their exposure.

  7. Thank you Chelsea for keeping Owen home. So many families are not going to be able to make that choice; when you keep Owen home, you’re making room for the child whose family doesn’t have that option.

    My children are not of school-age yet, but if they were, I think I’d be keeping them home full-time with my (retired) mom, to make room for those who don’t have retired grandmothers or SAHPs available.

  8. Betsie Eikenberry says:

    I’m so glad that this is the route you’ve chosen. Thank you for being educated and responsible.

  9. I think you are being so smart to choose this path!! I have initially been so glad my daughter doesn’t start Kindergarten until next fall but, what that means is she has to go to daycare 🙁 with both my husband and myself working out of reality as much as necessity and not having this choice…I waited 3 weeks after our daycare re-opened before sending her back but not even a month later we are closed again and have been closed since June 30th due to exposure in another classroom and 2 positive test cases…it’s the worst and the strangest experience trying to figure out who it is and whether my child could trace back and all of that but apparently we were in the clear and were told no need to get tested as there is already such a backlog ummmmmm what?? This whole thing is so nuts! Thanks for sharing how you made your decision, it’s so well thought out and honest!!

  10. Kristin W says:

    I live in Porter County, Indiana, one county away from the Illinois border. Our school plans to return on Aug 12 with a 5 day plan (green) moving to a yellow or red plan if more cases come up. Well, the biggest district in the county just announced they are planning to go full time e-learning (red plan) for the first 9 weeks and then re-evaluate and my teacher husband thinks that many schools will follow suit as we see the numbers go up instead of down. My job is in manufacturing and while can be done from home, upper management is extremely hesitant to allow it long term. It’s all just a mess with no end in sight. Everyone has to do what is best for their families even if it’s often choosing between the lesser of bad options.

  11. Very valuable input! 🙌🏼 Thank you for sharing this well thought out response!

  12. Brittany Kelleher says:

    This is what we’re doing. If e-learning turns out to be a complete cluster then I know I can always pull her out & homeschool the rest of the year/re-enroll when things improve. I’m thankful I stay at home with the girls and it’s an “easy” decision in comparison to what others have to make. When everything was shut down in March work wasn’t required. It was all optional and so in order to keep momentum I branched off and did my own thing. We bought homeschool curriculum so I wasn’t constantly having to print worksheets. We had nice information to work on each day. It was great — challenging, but great. I feel better knowing I can always go that way. We’ve already reached out to some like-minded parents and a former classmates mom made a fbook group so we can all coordinate meeting up or whatever for socialization. We shall see. Kindergarten was not how I planned it but I am thankful she got SOME time…this years kindergarten isn’t going to be what my kid got. I feel for you guys. I don’t want to make my kiddo anxious by going to school either. Hope your dad is doing well!

  13. Thank you for sharing this. I’m reading every article and post I can, trying to decide what the &#*@ we are going to do with our 18 month old. I’m one of those parents with tied hands. My heart is so broken.

  14. Chem teacher says:

    Not only are teachers not getting hazard pay; but in my district we aren’t getting our step increase this year AND are being furloughed 10 days. 😩

  15. Thanks for sharing all this information. Wishing you a good year! Be kind to yourself too!

  16. This is very thorough, thank you for sharing your decision! I had to laugh when I scrolled down to epic shit show. sad, but so true. I appreciate that I’ve seen many families with stay-at-home parents or flexibly self employed parents are choosing to keep their kids at home, making it easier for social distancing in schools. Something that I keep thinking of though is that there is a difference between a young elementary student and older students with COVID. The camp linked in your post was for 13-18 year olds, not young children. Viral spread from young children has very few cases. They think because these kids get inflammation symptoms and not the respiratory stuff as much. Still not something you want your kid to have to go through… The largest school district in my area is doing online only for middle and high school with in person options for elementary for this reason and because older kids can do better with the online instruction themselves.

  17. I completely support your decision, not that you were looking for support. I am glad that you recognized your situation is better than others, rather than trying to make it look like you deserve an award because you came to the conclusion that you did. I see too many parents being judgmental because parents have to work and can’t be home to teach their children while working full time because they have to pay bills to keep a roof over their head or food on the table.

    I will teach Kindergarten this year after previously teaching 1st grade. I’m not sure what learning will look like but I am anxious to get back in the classroom. I seem to be in the minority of my opinion because I feel like schools and classrooms were already little petri dishes of germs to begin with. I am healthy and not compromised by health-related issues or my age. I almost see it as my duty and calling. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but teaching in a classroom. My experience with teaching online was abysmal, and that was when it wasn’t mandatory. I have no idea how to effectively teach Kindergartners virtually.

    Every decision with regards to students feels wrong. So each and everyone of us has to make the best decision based on their situation and support each other in our decisions. My niece will also start Kindergarten this fall and it breaks my heart to think that she won’t have the greatest experience upon entering school.

  18. Thank you for sharing your sound reasoning and evidence behind your decision. As a first time pregnant mom I respect all parents so much right now, trying to decide what is best for their children and family. I cannot imagine how challenging this must be. As a nurse working in a COVID unit, I definitely understand the fierce desire to protect your children.
    My husband (also a nurse in a COVID unit) and I were just discussing how hard this must be for families who have their hands tied and have no choice but to send their kids to school or day care. We respect everyone’s different decisions and want to send all our love and support to anyone going through tough times and making difficult decisions!

  19. Tracy Moreno says:

    Thank you for sharing. As a teacher, parent, and spouse of a high risk individual we are struggling as a family to figure it all out. And my district still hasn’t finalized all options. I’m technically supposed to report August 6. The Covid cases in our county continue to rise. I can only hope a decision is made to start ALL students in the distance learning model until safe for everyone. Best wishes to Owen as he begins his journey. Take care.

  20. Thank you so much for this post – because of two reasons:

    1. Because you list so clearly and in detail the rationale that led you to this decision, while at the same time stating that you would understand if others reading your post might have a different view. Hopefully, your article will inspire a lot more parents to carefully weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision themselves, depending on their personal situation.

    2. But “thank you” even more because it gives me as a European back some hope that there are still some sensible voices in the U.S.

    Since March, we wake up here in Europe every morning to more bad news from the U.S. about the spread of the virus. I am completely shocked by the increasing number of new cases combined with the terrible failure & neglect of the U.S. Government officials, who seemingly don’t even TRY to get this under control. Where is the leadership, decisiveness and hands-on-attitude we have seen so often from the U.S. in many other difficult situations?

    So to read your article gave me back some faith, to be honest, that, sooner or later, everything will be ok again also in the U.S. – once enough sensible people raise their voices, either in articles like this or in the voting booth in November. As what’s happening in the U.S. also has a huge impact on what’s happening in the rest of the world, we really could use some good news soon…

  21. Betty Bashaw says:

    I totally get not sending your child into this new classroom setting. The reasons you stated are all viable and important.
    Home schooling is an exciting option for children of all ages. E-Learning is schooling at home. Home schooling is taking it to another level. One where you get to decide what and how to teach your child(ren). The love and care you are exhibiting by making this decision is just the first step. I encourage you to examine the additional opportunities that Home Schooling would offer . Enjoy your journey! 🙂

  22. This is how we feel and most of the things we were thinking about in our decision. We are making the same decision for our kindergartener. I’m hoping to find a one or two other families in our neighborhood who are being as cautious as us for playtime and socialization. We are in SC and one of the highest rates right now. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  23. I so appreciate this post. Such well-thought, considerate, and thought-provoking words. There are no plans right now for our school district. I am specifically looking at high school and middle school. Our preschool/daycare has said that we need to make a decision to keep our contract by Aug 1 for the September-June contract, but my preschooler is high risk. We have been home for over 4 months now. My husband and I both work full time. I have NO idea what to do. It gives me hives to think about it 🙁 So much of our decision for the fall will depend on the school district’s plans. The entire thing scares me to pieces – for my little family, for the daycare teachers and other families, for the district teachers/administrators/ staff and their families.

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