It’s tough enough being a parent. It’s even tougher during a lingering pandemic.

Parents have had to help their school-age kids, to varying degrees, through their online schooling this spring, and perhaps had to juggle work schedules and find child care. Families have spent a majority of their time confined at home.

Now comes the kicker: Do parents send their children back to school at a time like this? While the wave of COVID-19 seems to have passed through Montour County without mass hospitalizations and death, the virus still lingers and is surging in other parts of this country.

Then again, how can parents not send their children back into the classroom? They want to go back. They miss their friends, they miss their teachers, they miss being with people other than their family.

It’s healthier for them to be in school, too, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists.

The AAP advocates for students to physically return to school. The organization provides a list of reasons, from academic instruction and development of social and emotional skills to safety, reliable nutrition, physical/speech and mental health therapy and other benefits.

“The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020,” the AAP states on its website. “Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.”

Of course, the AAP and health agencies recommend masks, social distancing, hand sanitizing and other precautions that translate into a logistics Rubik’s Cube for school administrators and teachers. Danville Area and other districts also are offering online options for students whose parents might not be comfortable with sending them back.

Dr. Stacey Cummings, the vice-chair of outpatient pediatrics at Geisinger, told the newspaper that parents should discuss with pediatricians what the best option is for their children.

The decision to send students back to in-person learning or provide cyber or home school education is a “very individualized decision for each parent and child,” said Cummings.

She said a congregate setting with so many people gathered at a school does raise concerns, but she has equal concerns about schools not going back into session. School can be a safety net, it can provide relief from food insecurity, it is a place for social interactions that are important for child development, she said.

Ultimately, each family must decide what is best for them. It’s the school community, by taking precautions and following guidelines, that will make it work.

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