Updated at 12:00 p.m. ET on September 10, 2020.
K–12 schools have gotten off to what could charitably be described as a wobbly start in the 2020–21 academic year. Districts have stumbled all over themselves trying to think outside the box to keep kids learning during the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve been ingenious about enlisting community resources to help make school safer, from outsourcing the creation of outdoor classrooms to party-tent-rental companies, to connecting with churches, hotels, and, in one case, a closed dim sum restaurant in hopes of accommodating students who can no longer fit in classrooms that have been reconfigured for social distancing.
But in the frenzy, schools might be ignoring one of the most potent sources of help, one built into many families. These people have only the best interests of the children at heart and are likely less overtaxed than the parents of students: the grandparents.
Speaking for myself, as the grandmother of two girls ages 5 and 2, I’m devastated when I think about how much might be lost this year, for them and for their entire fragile generation. My daughter and son-in-law live in New York City, which plans to reopen public schools for in-person classes on September 21. But open this year means something different than usual: In-person classes are optional, for one thing; parents can choose to stay entirely remote. My older granddaughter will be in school just two or three days a week, depending on the week, which means that my daughter and son-in-law will have to keep juggling homeschooling and full-time jobs for the foreseeable future. (The younger one will be in day care with just a handful of other kids.) And that’s if all goes well, which I suspect it won’t. Each time even a single case of COVID-19 is confirmed in the 5-year-old’s classroom, Department of Education guidelines will require her to be sent home for full-time remote learning for roughly two weeks.