Back to school: Weighing the pros and cons of remote learning

As mask guidance changes and COVID-19 cases climb, parents may be considering their children’s options.

With COVID-19 cases surging again, some parents who were looking forward to sending their children back to school in the fall might be rethinking that plan.

Los Angeles Unified School District, for one, has made arrangements for parents to continue online learning for children experiencing “medical, social-emotional or other concerns” because of the pandemic.

For some parents it may be an especially challenging decision considering a vaccine has yet to be approved for children under age 12.

Adding to the concern is evolving mask guidance locally, statewide and on the national level. On July 27, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended universal masking for public school staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status or virus transmission rates.

Follow the science

For those still grappling with the decision on whether to send their children back to the classroom, Robert M. Bilder, PhD, chief of psychology at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, urges avoiding “hyperbolic news media stories, which sometimes seem to be fueled by politics rather than science."

Dr. Robert M. Bilder is chief of psychology at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

"I believe at this time, given the ever-changing landscape of the global pandemic, it is critical for parents to find the best and most trusted sources of information upon which to make decisions,” Dr. Bilder said. "My bottom-line advice would be to find the best science you can, then lay out the risks and the benefits of each decision, side by side. That should help guide parents to the best-informed decision."

Allowing for flexibility amid the ongoing uncertainty, LAUSD previously announced plans to fully reopen schools for in-person classes for the fall semester while providing families the option to continue with online learning if they choose to do so.

"While we are looking forward to welcoming all students back to schools in August, for students who are unable or choose not to participate at schools for in-person instruction, an online option must remain in place for the next school year," former LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement.

Keep up with authoritative guidance

“While, of course, there are no infallible sources, I think keeping up with CDC, state and county guidance, along with advice from your child’s pediatrician, is most important,” Dr. Bilder said.

“With that information, parents can then do their best to evaluate the risks and benefits of different decisions for their families."

Tina Daunt is the author of this article.

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