With the start of the US school year only weeks away, Marina Avalos still has no idea how or where her 7-year-old daughter will attend classes.
Like many mothers, Avalos is reluctant to send her child back to school at a time when coronavirus across the country has surged past three million cases, including 130,000 deaths.
On Tuesday, California — where she lives — set a new daily cases record, with 11,694 infections.
“The whole situation is making me very nervous,” said Avalos, 46. “I don’t feel safe sending my daughter back in to school like before.”
Despite evidence children are less vulnerable, the fear of classroom contagion is shared by many parents, who suspect younger pupils will particularly struggle to socially distance or wear uncomfortable masks for hours.
Yet many are also desperate for their sons and daughters to return, whether for financial reasons as they plan to go back to work, or out of fear that their children’s education will be seriously damaged by months away from the classroom.
This conflict has spilled into the political arena too, with President Donald Trump this week vowing to open schools “quickly, beautifully, in the fall.”
But California Governor Gavin Newsom has insisted that schools must only open when it is safe to do so.
“That to me is not negotiable,” he said.
Ultimately the decision is not up to the president or the governor but in the hands of school districts.
Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest, has yet to decide on its classroom approach, although county health director Barbara Ferrer reportedly told education bosses to have “plans in place to continue distance learning for 100 percent of the time.”