Back to School Following Cancer and COVID-19
We’re still living in unprecedented times. Families of childhood cancer patients face a difficult choice about returning to school.
School plays a major role in educating kids and helping them with their health and well-being. There’s little doubt that in-person learning is effective. Many schools even provide:
- Mental health services
- Speech therapy
- Physical therapy
- Food and nutrition resources for families facing food insecurity
Recent studies show classroom-centric learning is usually best. Students may have lost at least 25% of critical instruction over the last school year. This is due to disruptions from the pandemic.
But the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, and parents of childhood cancer patients are facing a big choice. They need tools to help them make the right choice about going back into the classroom.
Make Difficult Choices
Keep in mind that if children are over age 12, they are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Before scheduling the vaccine, talk with the care team about any risks. Your child’s medical history will help the care team make a recommendation.
Many school systems have already presented their plans for returning to the classroom. In general, families may have the following options for their children:
- Returning to the classroom for in-person learning
- Online instruction from home
- A mix of both in-person and online (hybrid)
Not all school systems will offer virtual or hybrid instruction.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends wearing face masks indoors. Physical distancing at school is important, too. But some school systems may choose not to follow these guidelines.
Here are some factors that families should consider:
- What is your child’s medical status and treatment plan?
- How will these impact her ability to attend school in person?
- Does your child have contact with anyone at risk for serious COVID-19 complications?
- What are the safety precautions at your child’s school?
- How will remote online learning work for your child?
- Is it possible for your child to learn from home?
- How would learning at home impact your child?
- How would learning at home impact her caregivers?
- Are there other options (like homebound instruction) available?
Tools to Help You
The CDC released updated school guidelines on July 9.
They stress the importance of in-person school attendance. And they suggest extra precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and any new variants. The guidelines recommend vaccines as the first line of defense.
Masks are still recommended in schools for anyone who isn’t vaccinated. At least 3 feet of distance inside the classroom is also recommended. And when that isn’t possible, students and teachers should wear masks.
The CDC recommendations also include:
- Staying home if you’re sick
- Testing as needed
- Contact tracing
- Disinfecting surfaces
The CDC created a school decision-making tool to help parents make decisions for the upcoming school year. It includes important information for parents. It also has questionnaires that can help you weigh the benefits and risks of each choice.
If you have questions about your child’s academic progress, talk with your child’s care team or school advocacy coordinator.