As Izzi’s fever continued to climb, everything I thought I’d figured out about my daughters’ schooling dissolved.
(This is Part 2 of 2-part series. Read the first post here.)
It started early that morning with complaints of a belly ache. By noon she was vomiting. Izzi is a healthy child, rarely sick and always tough, but that afternoon she sobbed and begged me to “fix it.” Her whole body ached. I rubbed oils on her leg muscles, which were so tight, as if she’d just finished a marathon.
She became lethargic, waking only to throw up or to cry out in pain. She vomited again and again until nothing was left and the dry heaving began. It was then the fever hit.
Please note, the fever did not come first.
I began to get scared.
Izzi had had a little congestion for a couple weeks, but we’d chalked it and an occasional cough up to allergies. Now I wondered…does my daughter have Covid-19? I googled symptoms of Covid-19 in children.
She had every single symptom. Every. Single. One.
Fear gripped me.
For the first time in twenty-plus years of parenting, I had our pediatrician paged. While we waited for her call, I held my sweet girl in my arms, never for a second considering if I should be the one caring for her. She needed me. My body’s fragility was irrelevant. Izzi’s temperature had reached 103 degrees when the phone finally rang.
I rattled off Izzi’s symptoms and their timeline. The doctor asked a few questions, then she explained that they had seen a handful of kids with the flu. This strain of flu and Covid-19 have the same symptoms. She asked if Izzi had been around anyone who had had these symptoms in the last 14 days. Nope, no one. We’d mostly been home and on the few occasions we’d gone anywhere, we always wore masks and used hand-sanitizer. But I called every single person we’d been near and they called everyone in their circles. No one had been sick.
Our pediatrician explained that policy now requires their practice to divert all patients with respiratory issues to the emergency room. They cannot test kids for strep, RSV, or even the flu in their office right now. (Remember this. It’s important.)
Then she said something that stopped my breathing.
“If she has Covid, there’s really no treatment yet anyway.”
This from the woman I have trusted with all four of my children for the last 23 years.
The doctor stressed the importance of getting fluids in Izzi. If she became dehydrated or started having trouble breathing, she would need seen quickly.
I could take Izzi immediately to the hospital where she’d be tested for both illnesses, but she would likely be exposed to more sickness this way, too. Or we could wait until morning, assuming she didn’t worsen throughout the night, and the pediatrician could try to get it her in a drive-thru testing site, but this was iffy because they sometimes refuse to test symptomatic children in a drive-thru.
When faced with this decision, I instantly knew that neither of my children or my granddaughter would step foot in a public school until the testing and treatment of Covid-19 are significantly more reliable.
If I can’t tell what’s wrong with my own daughter, how can I expect schools to be able to know the difference between the flu and Covid?
If some children don’t get a fever first or even any symptoms at all, how do we as parents know they aren’t safe to send to school?
If my own pediatrician can’t test her patient and we’re relying on emergency rooms to swab every kid sent home from school with a fever, how can we return to in-person schooling without overwhelming the hospital system??
How could I live with myself if I had sent my asymptomatic child to school and she had infected her teacher, an amazing woman with underlying health issues?
I cannot ask a single teacher to put her own life at risk to educate my child when I am perfectly capable of doing that from home.
Will it be as good as in-person education? Probably not. But if we have the capability of distance learning, why on earth should we risk a single person’s life?
I know many will say what about the kids who do not have the parental support or, especially, the ones who are in homes of abuse or neglect. I do not have the answer. And if anyone says they do, they’re lying. I only know what is right for my own child right now. After those 24-hours of fear, confusion and helplessness while Izzi was sick, I am certain that the right thing for her and her sister is to learn at home.
Last week our local district released its options for the 2020-21 school year.
- Option 1 – Students return to in-person school 5 days a week with safety protocols in place.
- Option 2 – Students learn via distance learning on one-to-one devices provided by the local school system. Lessons and assignments will be provided by local teachers.
- Option 3 – Virtual learning is provided at the state level. This is very challenging, provides the least amount of local support, and requires the most parental facilitation.
This is a simplification of the handbook, and, of course, homeschooling is an option. However, state laws limit options for homeschooling in high school, particular if a child intends to return to public school in a year, and the local BOE does not provide any curriculum or instruction for homeschool.
Parents are understandably stressed out. For generations we have sent our children to school and expected them to graduate prepared for college or the workforce with very little educational support from us. We’ve not had to make the tough decisions; educators have done that for us. Our job is to physically get them to school and to help with homework some evenings, a task we complain about often.
Let’s be honest. Most of us didn’t expect our job as parents to look like this, and most of us are afraid of change, especially one of this magnitude when the experiment is the education of our children.
But I would rather risk a year of education over a life, be it the life of a student, teacher or bus driver. Anyone.
The night Izzi was so sick, the long night of tears and prayers, my 15-year-old begged to be the one taking care of her sister. Gracie knew the direct exposure of whatever Izzi had could kill her momma. Even though the situation scared her, it helped her understand the importance of keeping me safe. In this way, the horrible 24-hr bug that plagued us that day was a Gift of Clarity.
It won’t be easy teaching Gracie from home. Not every day will be fun. But given the options, it is the best choice for my children. What’s right for my kiddos, may not be right for yours. It’s a highly personal decision. If you do not have any immuno-compromised or elderly individuals living in your home, maybe the risk is worth it. Maybe you live in home in which both parents must work and there’s no one at home to take care of young children. There are hundreds of variables. For me and mine, learning from home is the right course right now.
After all, as tough as it will be to live without the physical contact of her friends and teachers for another semester, it would be so much harder for Gracie to live without her mom for the rest of her life.