Back-to-School Decision Tree
Choosing how to begin the new school year is an important decision. Many factors affect not only the health and safety of your family but also your child’s ability to learn in the current environment.
Different children have different strengths and different needs. The pros and cons of different school environments—whether public, private, or charter—and of different delivery methods—whether in-person or virtual/remote—will impact each child to a different degree.
It's important to note that while virtual learning provided by a public, private, or charter school places additional burden on parents, it is not traditional homeschooling. You still have the support of a teacher and provided curriculum. If you are considering withdrawing your child from public, private, or charter school and homeschooling them instead, are you confident you will be able to assess your child’s knowledge accurately, provide instruction that covers all learning standards for their grade level, manage problem behaviors calmly, differentiate instruction based on their learning needs, provide consistent monitoring and checks for understanding, and provide a variety of activities within a set structure for the day?
ATPE has compiled the following lists of questions to consider when it comes to your child’s unique situation, choosing an instructional delivery method, and gauging preparedness for shifting to a virtual learning environment.
About My Child
- Child development questions:
- Is my child developmentally capable of properly wearing a cloth face covering, and does he/she understand the importance of doing so?
- Does my child thrive in a more independent environment, or does my child need significant peer interaction to maintain a positive mental outlook?
- Is my child an internally motivated self-starter, or does he/she need significant external motivation and oversight to start or finish tasks? If the latter, do the schools or virtual programs I am considering have a plan to provide that oversight?
- Can and will my child wear a cloth face covering for an extended period, if required by the school?
- Identifying special situations:
- Has my child been identified with a learning disability that qualifies him/her for special education services or 504 status? If so, does my child have a current individualized education plan (IEP)?
- Is my child’s first language a language other than English, and is he/she still working to master English?
- Does my child qualify for school-based nutritional services such as a free or reduced school breakfast and lunch program?
- Has my child been identified for Gifted/Talented (G/T) services, or do I wish to have him/her screened for G/T services?
- Risk factors:
- Does my child have a pre-existing health condition that makes him/her more susceptible to a negative outcome if he/she contracts COVID-19?
- Does my child live with or regularly interact with a parent, grandparent, or other adult that, due to age or a pre-existing health condition, is more susceptible to a negative outcome if they contract COVID-19?
Choosing the Right Learning Environment
- How schools are operating in light of COVID-19:
- Have I read the district’s/charter school’s/private school’s plan for how they will operate in light of COVID-19?
- Do I feel comfortable each of the schools I am considering has a reopening plan to adequately mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 to my child, my family, and my community?
- Do I feel comfortable that each of the schools I am considering has adequate procedures in place for when a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?
- Am I comfortable with how my child’s mode of transportation to and from school is reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 (e.g., decreased bus/transit capacity, wearing masks, increased cleaning and disinfecting practices)?
- Do I believe that each of the schools I am considering has a plan to provide an effective program of instruction, whether in person, virtual, or a mix of the two, every day of the regular school week?
- Do the schools I’m considering provide transportation, and if not, does my child have a reliable mode of transportation to and from school?
- Do I feel confident each of the schools I am considering will provide access to affordable quality nutrition?
- Public schools are required to provide qualifying students access to a free and reduced breakfast and lunch.
- Private schools are under no requirement to provide nutritional services to their students, particularly at a free or reduced price.
- Do I believe each of the schools I am considering communicates adequately with families about the changes it is considering?
- Am I satisfied with how each of the schools I am considering is addressing parents’ or caregivers’ concerns and questions?
- Accommodations and specialized services:
- Do I feel confident each of the schools I am considering will provide accommodations and specialized services to support my child’s special needs related to his/her IEP?
- Public schools are required to provide every student with access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). This includes providing special education services that allow every child to access FAPE.
- Private schools have no such requirement, and many have neither the means nor the expertise to provide significant special education services.
- Do I feel confident each of the schools I am considering is able to provide learning accommodations through a virtual/at-home learning option that meets my child’s IEP?
- Do I feel confident each of the schools I am considering will provide accommodations and specialized services to support my child’s special needs related to his or her primary language and English language acquisition?
- Public schools are required to provide specialized services to students identified as English language learners (ELL).
- Private schools have no such requirement, and many have neither the means nor the expertise to provide significant ELL services.
- Do I feel confident that each of the schools I am considering is able to provide ELL services through a virtual/at-home learning option that meets my child’s needs?
- Do I feel comfortable providing my G/T child opportunities for acceleration, extended learning, enrichment, and/or additional advanced learning opportunities?
Our Virtual Learning Environment
- Do each of my children have access to reliable internet and a device, such as a computer or tablet, which they can use for virtual learning? If I do not own my own device(s) and adequate internet access, do each of the schools I am considering provide at-home access to a device and internet connectivity at no charge?
- Does my child or children have access to a space that is reasonably free of distractions during school hours?
- Can I supervise or identify someone who can supervise my child(ren) during periods of virtual/at-home learning?
- If I need to work while also supervising my child(ren) during periods of virtual/at-home learning, will I be able to successfully do my job while providing each of my children the level of support they need to be successful?
Does your child participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports or band? How important to your child’s academic engagement is their participation in these activities? Do the schools you are considering have a plan in place to provide extracurricular activities and competition? How will they engage students who are receiving their academic content remotely? If you are considering an option other than public school, are you aware that your child will NOT be able to participate in UIL competitions—including sports, music, art, or academic competition?