Would I Send My Kids To School During COVID-19?
I do not need to decide whether to send children to school during this year’s COVID pandemic.
I am doddering toward age 80. My children are grown. We are not raising grandchildren due to their parents being unemployed, ill, addicted or imprisoned. We are not regularly “babysitting,” as my grandparents did for me when my own parents were both working.
But what if I did need to make the decision?
If I were a young parent, I would send children to school with other children. To me, the benefits of education and socialization outweigh the risks of becoming sick from the COVID coronavirus or helping to spread it throughout our communities.
What if I were raising grandchildren in our home?
I don’t know.
I don’t even consider the four choices about when to attend being offered by the DuBois Area School District. I would need to have a specific child in mind to get into that much detail. For parents of two or more children, juggling those schedules and arranging for childcare during work hours could be (sarcasm is deliberate) interesting.
What about catching COVID from school children?
At age 68 and in good health, my wife does not seem to be at high risk should she bump into the COVID virus. She would be likely to muddle through a flu-like bout, much as she wrestled with Lyme disease a few years ago.
Age 77. Two heart attacks. Two balloon-like aneurysms in major arteries. Two bouts of cancer. Emphysema. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Arthritis. “Pseudo-bradycardia,” which means that though as measured day-by-day my heartbeat is adequate, at any given time my pulse can drop to below 30 beats per minute, which is “pass out” territory.
That causes sudden sit-down problems if I am lifting 50-pound feed sacks.
I have other ailments with odd-sounding names: Plantar fasciitis, Raynaud’s syndrome. Add seasonal allergies and chronic lower back twinges from worn-out spinal discs, and I am a mess.
Most of my ailments are minor.
Some are even humorous, as overnight visitors to our home have seen when I stagger downstairs moaning, “Coffee! Coffee!” I don’t need the brew as a pick-me-up as much as I need to cradle a warm cup inside my sleep-stiffened fingers and type this exercise in self-pity, for one thing.
Watching Grandpa uncoil and unbend can produce giggles. Listening to the creaks and snaps accompanying Grandpa’s each-morning “thaw” can produce out-loud guffaws. Heck, I laugh at myself, too.
But my non-minor ailments are red flags for anyone in danger of coming within inhaling distance of the COVID virus, even if brought home by a largely asymptomatic youngster, though most school-age children seem able to cope with COVID without becoming deathly ill themselves.
With grandchildren in the house, I think my first reaction would be to see if it would be possible to get grandchildren out of the house – or get myself out.
I have no illusions about how many more newspaper columns I would write after COVID-treating doctors shove a ventilator into my aging airway.
We live in a rural area. Neighbors? Heck, only two houses are even within seeing distance, and they are a quarter-mile or further away.
But if I lived in town, in the house I used to own in an old-style neighborhood just south of the DuBois city line or in my former midtown apartment in Brookville, how would I feel about neighborhood children going to and from school?
I like kids. Heck, I enjoy the dickens out of kids. Being with kids provides an excuse for me to do all sorts of goofy kid-like things. I make weird noises. I make weird faces. I tell weird stories. I bend down, hobble around and walk in weird ways. The kids laugh. I laugh. My wife feigns resignation. We all have fun.
Around kids, I play with kids.
COVID? If those kids have returned from crowded interactions with other kids and with teachers, aides, administrators, maintenance workers from all over, should I get anywhere near them?
I don’t know.
I am no hero, no willing martyr. I have no wish to die soon, any more than a thirtysomething person does.
But I take risks every time I drive, whenever I cross a street, every time I hunt with a loaded gun, every time I climb a ladder or open an electrical circuit panel.
Risks of death are part of life. I would want my children to live, not just to exist. These days, education is vital to having a good life. So is socialization, the acquired ability to get along with people from divergent backgrounds, the acquired skills to avoid confrontation and violence through listening, tolerance, persuasion, compromise, and common ground. School imparts these values.
So I would send the children to school. I would stock up on sanitizer and masks. I would be prudent. I would thank God for having given me the ability to make such decisions.
Still, I would pray. A lot.
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Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: email@example.com.