Coronavirus News: Parents struggle with back-to-school decisions amid COVID pandemic

COVID-19 News and Information
LONG ISLAND (WABC) -- With the academic year about to begin and the debate raging whether in-person, remote or hybrid learning is best for children and staff, many parents are experiencing anxiety over how to safely proceed.

On Long Island, Noah and his little brother Ayden are holding onto summer. But their parents are feeling anything but carefree. The boys will start second grade and kindergarten, respectively, in their homes. They have siblings even younger, and older grandparents who help care for them..

"The benefit doesn't outweigh the risk," mom Suzanne Jaramillo said. "I think every day we would come home worried."

Related: NYC Mayor de Blasio unveils Back-to-School Pledge amid reopening debate

For Kelly McGrath Sullivan, it's also about risk during the pandemic.

"I can't have those what-ifs at night," she said. "There's just too many of them."

Her boys lost their father eight years ago, and they say too much is at stake now.

"I know there are other people in this situation, where you only have one parent," son and incoming freshman Jack Sullivan said. "And I can't go to school and bring this virus home to my mother."

Related: New Jersey makes a decision on fall high school sports

That parental anxiety swings both ways, as other parents worry what will happen if they're kids aren't back in school five days a week.

"For me, it's heartbreaking because I had my child come to me and tell me he's depressed," mom Maria Sanders said.

Many students struggle with remote learning.

"It's just a loss to the children," mom Jennifer DeMos said. "They've wasted time, and they've lost learning."

Related: Yonkers Public Schools opt for all-remote learning to start the academic year

So what can parents do to get through this? Weigh the pros and cons for your own family, talk to your older kids about what they want, and ask your school district as many questions as you can.

Elissa Smilowitz, of the North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center, runs one of four free support groups for Long Island parents.

"Another fear they have is that school opens, right, and in another two weeks, they have to shut down again," she said. "What is that going to do to the child emotionally? And also academically?"

She also warns that parents' anxiety is often absorbed by their children, so it's important to help them see the positive with the negative.

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