health as it happens

Parents Face Fresh Covid-19 Stress as Schools Start and the Delta Variant Spreads - The Wall Street Journal

Many parents who couldn’t wait to send their children back to the classroom are watching Covid-19 cases and wondering: Do we need a backup plan?

The rapid rise of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 is injecting uncertainty into annual back-to-school rituals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month that young children are at risk of becoming severely ill and that rates of Covid-19-associated hospitalizations in children under age 5 had tripled in the first half of July.

Because it looked so certain that children would be back in the classroom this fall, many parents didn’t think they needed daytime child care. Now they fear stop-and-start quarantines, periods of virtual learning and ad-hoc arrangements as schools try to keep doors open while coping with outbreaks. Some of the opened schools are already reverting to virtual learning for those children stuck at home due to Covid-19. And some districts aren’t guaranteeing immediate virtual instruction if classrooms close, parents say.

Parents are asking schools to clarify or tighten their policies—to re-examine the 3-foot social distancing the CDC recommended for school children last spring, for instance—and to promise they will be notified if a classmate or teacher becomes infected. And they are trying to craft contingency plans for school closures or needed quarantines as they juggle worries about their family’s health and their job security.

“I tell parents to put everything on the table,” says Debra Isaacs Schafer, consultant to employers and working mothers and founder of Education Navigation, an employee-benefits company focused on working parents and caregiving. “Evaluate everything—from a work, family and home perspective. This is work-life on steroids.”