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2020-21: The School Year of Uncertainty

by David Engle | Jul 02, 2020 | 3 min read

Today, as I write this, the state of New Jersey announced its plans for reopening schools for the 2020-21 academic year. I live in New Jersey, so I digested this information with great interest, curious to see how the state is planning on getting kids back to school.

The one word I took from Governor Phil Murphy’s announcement was…uncertainty. There are quite a few reasons for this state of uncertainty. For one, who knows what kind of havoc COVID-19 will have wreaked between now and late August/early September? Back in April and May, New Jersey was one of the hardest-hit states in the country, along with New York and Washington. Currently, New Jersey has recorded approximately 171,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 13,000 deaths as a result of this heinous virus.

But New Jersey (and much of the Northeast) took its social distancing and mask-wearing seriously, which is why cases have been in steady decline. Conversely, the virus has made its way to the South and Southwest, where it’s continuing to break its own daily record of positive cases. However, even though the virus has seemingly been somewhat contained in New Jersey, who’s to say it won’t come back with a vengeance come fall or winter? Many medical experts predict it will. So, then what?

It’s that question that leads to all the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of schools nationwide. New Jersey’s guidelines essentially stress social distancing, mask-wearing, deep cleaning, hand washing–all of the common sense measures we’ve grown accustomed to at this point. That said, Governor Murphy made it clear that this is not a one-size-fits-all solution (nor will it be for any state) and that it’s ultimately in the hands of school districts to decide how they want to operate come fall. Uncertainty.

New Jersey’s overall guidelines suggest that students return to school for in-person learning. Whether that’s full time or staggered is unknown. That will be up to the school district. Uncertainty.

There are so many “what-if” scenarios that impact not only New Jersey, but every state. What if states like Texas and Arizona and Oklahoma and Florida don’t see a significant enough fall in cases? Do they even bother trying to open schools for in-person learning? And if they do, will parents be willing to risk sending their children to school in the midst of a coronavirus hotspot? Uncertainty.

What if schools open, and then there’s another outbreak? Will schools be ready to transition smoothly to Plan B? What if schools do decide to move to remote learning again? What will working parents, many of whom will have since returned to their places of business, do then? Uncertainty.

And therein lies the problem for millions of parents of children in public and private schools. No one knows what to do. It’s all a waiting game at this point, as most states won’t require a concrete plan from every school district until about a month ahead of the academic year. So parents and teachers and students wait it out for the next month or so.

Even if schools could guarantee a safe environment for students, many parents are unwilling to take that risk. I t’s understandable, considering how crowded schools can be and that kids are essentially germ factories who don’t really grasp the concept of social distancing.

The only real way to eliminate the uncertainty? Homeschooling. Now, this is tricky for parents who work, and especially those who work outside the home. But if these parents can make it work, it’s a great solution. You control the environment and whom your child is or isn’t exposed to. There are no crowded bus rides. Kids won’t have to wear masks inside their own homes. And they still get a wonderful education.

If you’re not married to the idea of long-term homeschooling, that’s ok, because many parents are opting to keep their kids home in the short term–even if it’s homeschooling for only one school year.

So, what do you do if your child goes to public or private school? You can wait it out to see how it goes, like millions of parents will. Or, if you simply can’t take any more uncertainty, you can enroll your child in a homeschool academy like Bridgeway and take control of the situation–and your child’s education–yourself.

Bridgeway Academy offers comprehensive, full-year Grade Level Kits as well as individual courses to accommodate any homeschooling situation. We also have a variety of curriculum options, online classes, and homeschool programs that are tailor-made for the independent homeschooler. Give us a call at (800) 863-1474 to learn more!

David Engle
Hello, and thanks for reading! I’m David Engle--dad, husband, sports fan, and writer/editor. As a father for the last 18 years (father of two for the last 14), I consider myself to be pretty well-versed in all things related to education, childhood, and parenting, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to share some insights and knowledge with fellow parents. I have been a professional writer and editor for a quarter of a century (it pains me to admit that) and have been writing in the educational space for a number of those years. I reside in southern New Jersey with my wife, two kids, two dogs, and three cats. Never a dull moment.
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