Why School is Too Risky for Us Right Now

Jennifer Arnold by Jennifer Arnold Additional Needs

Jennifer Arnold

Jennifer Arnold

I’m passionate about raising awareness about disability issues through education and outreach. When I’m not wearing my writer hat, I’m usually tryi...

The start of the new school year is creeping up on us, and this year, instead of buying supplies off of school lists, we’re making decisions that we never thought we’d have to make - whether or not to send our kids back into the classroom.

Some don’t even have that option, depending on where they live in the United States, as areas that have high numbers of COVID-19 cases are beginning the school year virtually.

For those of us who have the option of sending their kids back, it seems like there still are no good choices. When your child has a disability or is medically fragile, it feels like you’re choosing between their physical and mental health.

It also seems like whatever we do, someone is going to think we're doing the wrong thing.

Our 9-year-old son has chronic lung disease, and simple colds have landed him in the pediatric intensive care unit for weeks. Even though his health is more stable now, there are too many unknowns about COVID-19 for me to feel comfortable sending him back to school just yet.

Despite his health history, this choice was in no way easy. I would love for my son (and all children) to go back to school, but the risk is just too high for us, and many others like him.

Some may feel that I’m making this decision out of fear, and they would be right. Fear of him getting this virus and his body not being able to handle it. Fear of him having to be put on a respirator again, or worse, an Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (EMCO) machine. An ECMO machine, in case you have never heard of it, is a bypass machine that is a last-ditch effort to save someone’s life. He’s already been on one, and I don’t care to see him on one ever again. He also regresses every time he goes through a serious illness, and it can take weeks or months to gain back what has been lost.

If I’m totally honest, this decision is selfish on my part. I’m doing it to save my sanity.

Chronic lung disease and just the everyday life of parenting children with special needs comes with a lot of worry and anxiety. I don’t need to add any more to my list.

I’m also not convinced he will be kept safe enough. All the personal protection equipment and sanitary precautions the school has won’t keep other parents from bringing their sick children to school, and by the time it’s discovered that the kid is sick, they’ve already exposed everyone around them. And with exposure comes quarantine and school closures. Even if he was lucky enough to not be exposed, those types of disruptions would be detrimental.

I’m sure many others are grappling with the same choices.

As much as I want to go back to the way things were, this new abnormal is here to stay for some time. Until we know more about COVID-19, or there is a universally accepted treatment or prevention, I’ll put on my homeschool teacher hat, drink copious amounts of coffee to get me through the day as usual, and face this as we do will all the hard things that come our way- head-on!



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