Whether you have children in your family or not, at this point in the novel coronavirus pandemic, pretty much everyone is concerned about how students, teachers, and other staff are going to survive. Survive in all definitions of the word, mind you: Are students suffering in terms of mental health or social skills while at home? Are immunocompromised teachers forced to return to the classroom at too high a risk for a job? What about the emotional burden of partners or family members of school staff—not only teachers but janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and administrators—who worry about carrying the virus home? The list of concerns goes on, and children aren’t immune—literally.
For example, just two days into the school year, one mother from Oklahoma says her daughter came home from school and tested positive for COVID-19. Teresa, who gave only her first name when speaking to local outlet KOCO 5, told the network her 11-year-old daughter has been meticulous about wearing her mask. Outside of her daughter, the whole family has been vaccinated. And yet, the middle-schooler still showed symptoms and still tested positive with hardly any hours in the classroom under her belt.
According to Teresa, her daughter came home from school on Friday and seemed fine. Over the weekend, things took a turn for the worse, however, and her daughter seemed to have a slight fever and sore throat. Her mom took her to get a COVID test, which came back as positive. That’s when, according to Teresa, she noticed a very important email on her phone.
“If I wasn’t combing through my email last night to send off an email,” she told the outlet. “I wouldn’t have seen it.”
What did this email contain, you might be wondering? Just a message from her daughter’s school letting parents know someone in her class had tested positive for COVID-19 and her daughter might have been exposed. Not too shocking, given what we know about the virus. What is shocking, however, is that the letter does not mandate that exposed students quarantine. It’s recommended, but not explicitly required.
“Edmond Public Schools and the Oklahoma City-County Health Department strongly recommended that your child complete a seven-day or 10-day quarantine; however, it is not a requirement,” the letter reportedly reads in part. For what it’s worth, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) does recommend students return to in-person school only once they’ve been quarantined for ten days, have improved symptoms, and are fever-free for 24 hours.
“I just think more should be done to protect our children because our children come first,” Teresa told the outlet, adding that she’s now considering enrolling her daughter in online schooling. “They’re our future, and we need to be able to protect them.”
If you’re wondering if schools are requiring masks for all, according to a letter sent to parents from the Edmond Public Schools Superintendent Angela Grunewald, that’s a no. The letter reportedly says in part that masks are “beneficial” but that each “employee and family” can make a “personal decision” on mask-wearing. The letter also notes that their COVID-19 cases are “currently very low.” But as we know about the virus, on one day the case numbers can be minimal, and within days they can skyrocket.
Sadly, this is far from an isolated incident when it comes to kids contracting the virus after returning to the in-person classroom. Even within the past few days alone, there are reports of a number of students testing positive for COVID-19.
Some examples? Twelve students (and three staff members) tested positive in the Pleasanton, California, school district within the first week back in the classroom. In one Texas school district, Midland ISD, more than 280 students and staff have tested positive for the virus since school resumed on Aug. 2. Over 100 students in Madison County, Alabama, schools have tested positive for the virus. Nearly 1,000—yes, 1,000—students tested positive for the virus in Mississippi within the month of August. Just yesterday, a school district in Florida reportedly had more than 8,000 students in quarantine following exposure at school.
The takeaway? Many people want students back in the classroom. Parents are exhausted, teachers are stressed, and children miss their peers. It’s not an easy situation for anyone to navigate and there are no perfect answers. But children are not immune to this virus, nor are the people exposed to children, including teachers, family, neighbors, bus drivers, and people in the general community. We all want the pandemic to be a thing of the past, but until young people are able to get vaccinated (and eligible adults actually, you know, get their shots and wear masks), we have a ways to go.
You can check out the interview with Teresa below.