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Exhausted parents navigate a patchwork of US school’s COVID-19 policy

Exhausted parents navigate a patchwork of US school's COVID-19 policy

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Jan. 14 (Reuters) – Jennifer Pierre speaks for millions of American parents as she sums up what it feels like to navigate a patchwork of COVID-19 policies at school as the pandemic enters its third year.

“It’s so exhausting,” the Sacramento, California, mom said this week.

She is happy to see her 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son back in their classrooms after the long months of distance learning that hampered their social development. But even with her school district’s strict security protocols, does she care? the rising Omicron variant will lead to further closures and on what grounds they will be decided.

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“Instead of 2020, where it was, stay at home, wash your hands, don’t touch anyone, now it’s more complicated,” says Pierre, 40. “The rules are not clear.”

In the United States, schools follow protocols that vary from state to state and even city to city. Some districts require masks and regular tests, but others do not. Many remain open to personal learning, while some close, sometimes with little notice. Some allow students exposed to COVID to stay in school, while others send them home for five to 14 days.

According to Burbio, a website that tracks school disruptions, there were nearly 5,000 schools nationwide this week that were closed or isolated for one or more days this week due to COVID-19.

The confusing situation has left many parents frustrated and angry — and sometimes feeling like they’ve been left alone to decide if it’s safe to send their kids to school.

In New Jersey, Kristen Verrier, 46, heads two children whose school has been abruptly switched to distance learning for two weeks, another who attends class in person and a school-age daughter who decided to take a year off amid the pandemic. harm is yet another term.

As president of the parent-teacher organization for the River Dell Regional School District, Verrier said she also answers questions from other parents who face the myriad daily judgments that have become part of pandemic life.

“What must we do?” they said they asked for it, while grappling with things like whether to send a student to sports training even if the school is closed.

‘CHICKENPOX PARTY’

Yelena Wheeler has yet to send her children, ages 5 and 8, to class in Burbank, California, two weeks after their winter break ended.

Ever-changing safety regulations and the lack of strict testing protocols in their district convinced the hospital’s dietitian and her husband, an emergency room nurse, that it would be wiser to home-school their children.

“The virus is rampant and I just wouldn’t want to participate in this chickenpox feast,” she said.

Taylor Calderone was all set to send her 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son back to school in River Edge, New Jersey, after the holidays for the first time since the start of the pandemic. But on the evening of January 2, just hours before they planned to wake up and go to class, she changed her mind.

The unknowns of the Omicron variant and its fear of “prolonged COVID,” a constellation of symptoms that some patients have reported experiencing the change of heart weeks or months after recovering from the primary infection. After nearly two years of homeschooling, she also knew her family could handle it, even if it’s not ideal.

“What we all want for our kids now is their childhood back,” says Calderone, 37, a stay-at-home mom. “It’s so hard to give them a sense of security and comfort – and when we make these predictions and they turn out not to be true. It was very difficult to navigate through that space.”

Other parents had to rush when concerns about the spread of Omicron led a number of districts to abruptly announce days off and teachers in Chicago, Oakland and Louisiana organizing strikes to protest what they believe are unsafe conditions.

The Biden administration announced this week that new set of measures focused on keeping classrooms open, including doubling the COVID-19 testing capacity in schools with 10 million additional tests.

School officials say they have conducted outreach efforts to keep parents informed about changes in public health regulations.

When the Los Angeles school board voted just days before the school opens to demand a baseline COVID-19 test for everyone, a massive communication effort was launched to ensure parents were aware of this. including social media posts, local news appearances and emails to parents, said Frances Baez, an area superintendent.

But even with the nation’s second-largest school district boasting some of the nation’s strongest protections for teachers and students, more disruptions are to be expected as the pandemic continues, said Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

“Nobody has a script for this moment,” she said.

Los Angeles parent Eve Tronson sends her kids to their preschool and high school classes, but tries to reduce risks in other areas of their lives. They’ve upgraded their masks, avoid dining indoors at restaurants, and limit play dates.

“They need social interaction and some continuity,” Tronson said. “I pray we get through it.”

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Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California, and Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Lisa Shumaker

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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