When I drove my son to school for the first time since March, I was overcome with gratitude for the faculty and staff who have worked countless hours preparing to bring students back to the classroom safely.
As a mother, sending my child to school in-person this fall felt like the greatest gift — even amid a public health crisis and strict social gathering guidelines. But I know not all parents feel the same.
Erin Silver, 35, moved her son out of his school because she did not want him to attend face-to-face. Instead, the Ridgewood, New Jersey, resident paid a premium to enroll him in a remote learning program and hired a nanny to help monitor his activity, since Silver and her husband both work full time.
Because Silver's husband suffers from asthma, "there was no bone in my body that felt comfortable sending my son to school," she said. "It was too high-risk for me."
The Silvers chose a virtual preschool called BümoBrain, which provides an online curriculum and live lessons taught by teachers, coupled with interactive activities, for their 4-year-old. The program costs $99 a month, including supplies.
With the addition of a full-time nanny, "we are spending three times the amount we used to spend," Silver said.
And still, there are significant drawbacks, she added. "He doesn't get to have actual physical interaction," Silver said. "Everyone has to make sacrifices and that's the sacrifice that we are making.
"I wish things we different," she added. "I am doing the best I can with the cards I am dealt."
Alternatives to traditional schooling are popping up across the country, such as pod schools, which can be in person or virtual, like the program offered by BümoBrain. Different educational companies are offering services at almost every price point. In these cases, parents withdraw their children from school and register as homeschoolers.
Of course, Americans under financial constraints have few, if any, of those options. Many families are limited to the reopening plan at the public school in their district, which could still change.
In fact, a little more than half of U.S. elementary and high school students will attend school only virtually this fall, according to a recent tally.
After reaching an all-time high in 2019, overall satisfaction among K-12 parents sank 10 percentage points to 72% in 2020. Gallup surveyed more than 1,000 adults in July and August.
Meanwhile, the percentage of families who are now homeschooling in some capacity has spiked.
One in 10 parents said their child will be home-schooled this year, a number that doubled since last year, while the percentage of parents sending their children to public school or private school fell, Gallup found.