An impossible decision: parents weigh children returning to in-person learning in schools

The decision every family in the nation has to make in the coming weeks is the hardest one: whether or not to send your children to school. 

While some districts are going completely virtual, many are also planning to open up with in-person learning.

Jayne DeBoer-Rowse and her wife, April, have five children between the ages of six and 11. When COVID hit earlier this spring, they had to shift to teacher mode and prepare for online learning.

"I needed five tablets, five laptops," Jayne said. "You have this teacher doing Zoom, this teacher doing Google, this teacher doing this. With five kids it's hard enough to keep up with one platform much less two or three others."

The family said the challenge was hard in several ways with Jayne joking that 4th and 5th-grade math being much harder than college.

We met Jayne and April several years ago as they took their fight for same-sex marriage and adoption to the Supreme Court - and won. 

This is a different battle.

They're both nurses and know the dangers of COVID-19 but they're also parents who can't decide what to do about school this fall - keep the kids home for virtual learning or send them back to the classroom, where they learn the best.

"They're already behind," Jayne said. The structure is definitely something that they need,"

On top of that, many parents need to get back to work - but can they?

"Are our jobs secure if we have to take leave? These are things we have to think about," Jayne said.

There are no easy answers. In Detroit, protesters have been trying to shut down summer school for weeks amid concerns for students, teachers, staff, and everyone they interact with. 

Jayne understands that - and so do her children. Rylee is going into third grade and says she misses school.

"I'd like to go back to the classroom but I don't want to get anybody sick," she said.

The only thing for certain, it won't be the same when they return - as parents weigh fear of the virus versus fear that their kids will fall even farther behind.

"It just weighs heavily on us and we have talked to a lot of our parent friends and they're in the same boat," Jayne said. " I do think many of our friends are keeping their kids home. They're afraid, and, you know, so are we. We are afraid."