As school starts up over the next few weeks, many parents are understandably worried (ummm, terrified). The Delta variant has caused COVID cases to skyrocket, especially among unvaccinated people, including kids. In fact, more kids are currently hospitalized with COVID than at any other time in the pandemic.
The idea of sending our kids into school buildings during a pandemic is scary enough, but many of us are faced with the fact that our school districts are pretty much saying goodbye to pandemic safety measures like masks and social distancing.
Many school districts are going the “mask optional” route, allowing parents to decide whether to send their kids to school in masks. This might sound like a good compromise, but goes against both CDC and AAP guidelines, which highly recommend that all kids, teachers, and staff be masked in school buildings, vaccinated or not.
Some school districts are taking it a step further and not allowing schools to mandate masks at all. Florida is a prime example of this. Despite a massive COVID outbreak in that state right now, Governor Ron DeSantis is threatening to take away funding from any school district that requires students to wear masks.
But there is hope. Even in a place like Florida, school districts are defying these orders, and making mask requirements in the interest of public health. School districts are also defying these order in places like Texas and Arizona as well, which have similar mask mandate bans.
That’s why it’s important that all of us make our thoughts and opinions known about these issues, even if we live in places where it feels hopeless.
You Have A Voice: Use It!
If your district doesn’t have a mask requirement for students and staff, or has eliminated other important COVID safety measures, you might feel at a loss. You want to send their child to school, but you want it to be safe.
But you have a voice, and you should feel empowered to use it.
You might feel like you want to do something—anything—but you’re not sure what to do. One thing you can do is to send your school district an email asking that they follow CDC and AAP guidelines. You can even start a petition (like through a website like Change.org) to send to your school district, asking them to update or reconsider their guidelines.
But not all of us know exactly what to say or how to present our arguments to our districts. As such, we’ve put together some sample letters for you to use. Feel free to edit and adapt them to your needs!
Sample Letter 1: Adapted From A Physician
I was able to connect with a Long Island, NY mom of a 6-year-old—and a physician herself—who shared the text of a petition she wrote. She said anyone is free to use it. The petition has been adapted and edited.
Here it is:
I strongly urge [enter name of school district] to require universal indoor masking for students this coming year, as per the latest CDC and AAP guidance. Given the outbreak of the highly transmissible Delta variant, outdoor masking in schools would also be prudent as well.
Until all school-aged children have the opportunity to be vaccinated against Covid-19, we need to continue to protect them. Even vaccinated individuals can get and spread Covid-19, and while they will be well protected against getting seriously ill, they still may transmit the virus, particularly to those who are unvaccinated. While children are thankfully less likely to die or require hospitalization than adults, many are still developing long term symptoms from the virus.
Moreover, a remote schooling option should continue to be provided, at least until children under 12 become vaccinated. Hopefully, all our children will soon have an opportunity to be vaccinated soon. But until then, we need to continue to protect them with masking.
Sample Letter 2: From A Concerned Parent
Personally, I have written several letters and petitions to my district urging them to keep COVID safety precautions in place. Here’s the edited text of a letter I sent that that you are free use:
I want to voice my opinion in favor of keeping the mask requirement in our schools.
I know you will be getting many emails and phone calls about this issue. I know that the “unmask our kids” crowd is passionate as well.
Especially with the highly infectious Delta variant circulating, removing masks indoors could be a recipe for disaster. Just one infected child could spread the virus to an entire class, especially in elementary schools where no children are yet vaccinated.
This is why both the CDC and the Academy of American Pediatrics strongly recommend masks for unvaccinated children in schools at this point in the pandemic.
Many are saying that the reason why we can drop the mask mandate inside school buildings is because children are at minimal risk for severe COVID. This is true, to some extent.
Yet at the same time, the CDC has data showing that among adolescents who were hospitalized with COVID this past spring, a third were admitted to the ICU and 5% required ventilation. We are seeing huge hospitalization spikes in children who have caught the Delta variant, including children admitted to intensive care units. Over 400 children have died so far of COVID-19.
Last school year proved that kids could go to school and remain safe, even during a global pandemic. Why was this possible? MASKS. Masks worked last school year, and most children adapted well. And part of the reason masks worked well is because all children and staff wore them inside diligently.
If we move toward a maskless or mask-optional environment, especially among children under 12, we risk losing that safety measure that so many of us desire and deserve for our children. Again, all it takes is one maskless, infected individual to spread the virus to many.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Arm Yourself With Information
As you reach out to your district, you want to make sure that everything you say is evidence-based and backed by science. Of course, you also want to bring your own personal passion to the issue, so don’t hold back. These are our kids we are talking about, so be as impassioned as you want.
The sample letters above are full of links to studies and news articles to support each statement. So you can use those. Probably the most important links you will want to include are the links from the CDC and the AAP, which clearly outline the need for universal mask usage this school year.
CDC statement: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/index.html
AAP statement: https://services.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2021/american-academy-of-pediatrics-updates-recommendations-for-opening-schools-in-fall-2021/
You Are Not Alone
It may feel like you are the only one who is feeling the weight of these horrible decisions coming out of school districts and school boards. But you are not alone. So many parents (*raises hand*) have spent sleepless nights worrying about how schools will keep their kids safe this school year. If your district is doing away with COVID safety guidelines, you have every right to be angry, and to demand that your school district change their guidelines.
After all, every child deserves the right to an education—and it must be a safe one. So speak up, write those letters, get those petitions going, band together with other likeminded parents—and most of all, don’t give up.