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Relief, anxiety as U.S. parents confront emotional back to school By Reuters


© Reuters. Kelly Toth and her boys (L-R: Nicolas Toth (8 years old), Alex Toth (7 years old), Christopher Toth (12th grader), walk home after school in Schnecksville. Pennsylvania, U.S.A, September 22nd 2021. Picture taken September 22, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah Beier

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Kelly Toth was “very relieved” when her four sons went back to school in person at the end of August after more than a year of pandemic restrictions.

Toth stated that she felt anxious for the first few weeks. It was strange that she didn’t know what her kids were learning in school, even though she had closely monitored them during their last academic year.

The United States is full of parents who are dealing with many emotions. They have taken extraordinary measures to make COVID-19 vaccines and tests part of their back-to school routine.

Some parents felt relief when their children were allowed to return to school full-time, in Toth’s case because she lives in an area where indoor masking was mandatory. However, others expressed concern about their safety. There has been a rise in the number of hospitalizations due to the extremely contagious Delta version of coronavirus.

That fear is at times compounded by the deep political fault lines evident in wildly different approaches taken by U.S. schools on issues such as masking

Toth, a Schnecksville-based physician’s aid, was 39 when she managed her children’s education while working long hours in an emergency room. Although she and her husband were small-business owners, they tried to support schooling, but “no clue what we were doing,” she said.

Her sons, aged 7, 8, 12, and 14, were “almost impossible to enjoy” because they always had to deal with the stress of “we must do this assignment,” she explained.

Delta was a concern, but she stated that, this year, it felt better. She feels like she can be the mom they want, and not the controlling person in their lives.


The Delta variant has sent infections among young children soaring. As they are not eligible yet for vaccination, children under the age of 12 are at greatest risk.

This could change over the next few months. Pfizer (NYSE:) and BioNTech said last week they plan as soon as possible to ask for regulatory authorization for their vaccine in children ages 5 to 11.

Jodi, Jodi’s mother from New York City said she will get her kids vaccinated. Jodi is the mom of a child under 12 years old. It’s dangerous and I want my kids safe.

Cook’s 11 year-old daughter was at school in Brooklyn during the pandemic. However, Cook’s 7-yearold son had difficulty with remote learning. She said both children were special-needs learners.

Cook stated that she felt it was worth taking the chance to send them back to school full-time. It was too difficult trying to keep their mental health at home.

This year’s COVID-19-related outbreaks have sent many students to U.S. schools for hybrid and remote learning. There have been over 2,000 in-person school closures in K through 12 institutions in 39 states since August, according to data aggregator

Concerns over the Delta version grew as the University of Washington Bothell’s Center on Reinventing Public Education looked into 100 urban school districts across the United States.

It found that only 41% of the 100 districts offered remote learning options, or at most, to some students, by July’s end. Laura Mann, CRPE communication director, stated by email, that only six of the 100 districts offer remote learning less than two years later.

Brian Corley taught his two daughters in person during the previous academic year when they had to wear masks in Birmingham, Alabama.

Corley stated that masks are now optional, in spite of the deadly COVID-19 rise in Alabama where vaccine rates are low.

Corley and his wife were frustrated by this school policy after their youngest daughter was blinded from an infection she contracted in childhood. Because of her past history with viruses, her parents worry about what she would do if COVID-19 strikes.

Corley stated that it was not unreasonable to require children to wear masks in school.


Many U.S. parents have qualms about sending their children back to school. Only about one quarter of parents who responded to a nationwide online survey for the National Parent Teacher Association released earlier this month said they feel “very comfortable” with their children returning to the classroom.

According to the survey, their main concern is that their child may contract COVID-19 at school.

Allison Rentz, an artist and dog-walker, signed her son up for classes in person this year. She called it “difficult”, partly because she cares about his mental health.

Rentz stated that she tests her 12-year-old son once per week for coronavirus and requires him to wear a KN95 mask when he goes to school.

He is driven by his single mother to middle school, in Atlanta, because crowded buses might be dangerous. Rentz picks him up around lunchtime, to ensure he doesn’t go into the cafeteria. Their car is parked in front of the school. They have dinner together.

Rentz, 46 said, “He hates it that I check him out every single day.” Rentz said, “That was the only way I could feel secure.”