Why I refuse to send my kids to school right now - even though they are open

Photos: Instagram
Photos: Instagram 

Like so many others I made the mistake of thinking the worst of the coronavirus crisis was over when we managed to "flatten the curve". I heard talk of a so-called second wave, but I didn't really believe it would happen.

After all we'd been through as a nation since the pandemic began, it never occurred to me that people would make choices that would compromise all that we had achieved and lead to a second wave.

Then I started seeing social media posts showing people out and about failing to socially distance. And during the school holidays I heard about indoor play centres filled to the brim.

By mid-way through the school holidays I was worried, even more so as reports of new outbreaks in Victoria began and by the end of the second week of the term break, clusters were being reported in NSW as well.

Two days before school was meant to return, there was a report of a serious COVID outbreak in a nearby suburb, then one at a local nail salon, then someone who had been in a clothing store near my house and then an eight-year-old child who had attended soccer training at my local park.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Family birthday celebration with my gorgeous girl.

A post shared by Jo Abi (@joabi_9) on

Parents began sharing this information on my local Facebook page and it was clear I wasn't the only one who was worried. We all started talking about how we were going to have to drive our kids to school to avoid public transport. The school said parent-teacher interview would be held online and no parents were allowed on school grounds.

I started wondering if children returning to school all at once was the right choice. I would have preferred a staggered return just like after restrictions began lifting after the first wave, just to see what would unfold following everyone's school holiday activities.

I was in full-blown panic by Sunday night and I was just about to completely lose my mind when I realised I could just delay sending my children to school for a few days, to see how it all panned out.

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I emailed the school and told them Giovanni and Caterina wouldn't be returning to school until the second week of term at the earliest. Then I broke the news to my daughter that I wasn't happy for her to go back to acting and dancing classes in person instead of online.

The entire time I was making these decisions I was fully aware of the fact that I am in a privileged position to be able to do this. I can work from home. I was used to homeschooling my kids. It was an easier choice for me than most.

And I'm not saying I have made the "right" choice by keeping my children home from school and those who have sent their kids to school have made the "wrong" choice.

The bottom line is that none of us knows what to do for sure. We have federal, state and territory information and guidelines that sometimes clash with each other. I can walk into my local, crowded supermarket but if I take one of my birds to the vet I have to wait in the car.

My daughter can sit in a classroom at school filled with children and various teaching staff but we can't visit my dad at his nursing home.

The information is confusing, inconsistent and patchy so all we can do is take all of the information we are given and make our own choices.

None of us wants to get coronavirus and nobody makes choices thinking they will result in them coming into contact with coronavirus, but the fact is that every time we set foot outside of our homes at the moment – to take out the rubbish, to fill our cars up with petrol, to do anything – we are at risk of exactly that.

I need to know I have done everything I possibly can to avoid that happening and keeping my kids home from school for the first week or two of the new school term is something I can do, and so I am doing it.

A vaccination is the only way we can return to life before the pandemic I think, and I hope it isn't too far off although I suspect it is because it can't be easy to develop one for this rapidly-moving and highly-contagious virus.