Will Your Kids Be Heading Back to School This Fall?

Here in France, my kids went back to school in May and June. They are on summer break now, but schools are currently planning to fully open in September (technically, I think the first day back is August 31st).

Friends have asked what it’s like having kids back in school — what are the safety precautions? — so I thought I’d walk you through what it has been like here to have the country slowly and carefully reopen.

Here’s what the French pandemic response looked like from my perspective. In early March, right after I got back from Alt Summit, there was talk about the country shutting down, but it hadn’t happened yet, and the kids were still in school.

By Mid-March, President Macron closed ALL schools throughout the country simultaneously, and the country shutdown in earnest. Everything but essential shops were shuttered and the streets of our town were absolutely empty. I didn’t see people walking. I rarely saw cars. It was quiet as can be. Grocery shopping happened rarely, and had strict guidelines — only one person per family (you couldn’t bring your spouse or the kids). You had to enter and exit on specific paths. There were plexi-glass checkout barriers for the workers. School transitioned to online, but didn’t take up a big portion of the day.

People continued to be paid for working at home, or had access to government relief funds in order to float their businesses until they could reopen. There was no talk of evictions or not being able to pay rent. No utilities were shut off. Nothing like that.

This continued for two months. Everything was closed. At the one month point, a couple of restaurants reopened for takeout only. No funerals. No travel. No driving longer than a few miles. No handshakes, hugs, or cheek kisses. No hanging out with neighbors on their lawn — even at six feet apart.

Mid-May, things started to slowly and carefully reopen. And all of it was at the direction of the government. The country was labeled with green zones or orange zones or yellow zones, depending on the risk factors of that area for covid-19 to spread, and green zones opened first. Normandy (where we live) was a green zone, which means it was considered low-risk.

Elementary kids went back to school, but with modifications. Each class was split in half and would only attend half the time. So Flora June and half of her class attended school on Monday & Thursday, and the other half attended on Tuesday & Friday. (There is no school on Wednesday for elementary age kids, even when there’s no pandemic.)

All adults at the school had to wear masks 100% of the time. The children were not asked to wear masks, though they could if they wanted to. Any child showing even the smallest signs of sickness was asked to stay home. And you didn’t have to send your kids if you didn’t want to (like maybe you have immuno-compromised members of your household). If you didn’t feel safe attending in person, you could still participate via online school.

The desks were spread far apart, hand-washing was required at several points throughtout the day,. At recess, the kids could only play games where there was no touching and the kids stayed 6 feet apart — so no tag. And the cafeteria process was streamlined so that the kids could avoid touching things. They would come in and sit — every other chair — and the food was brought on a rolling cart and the kids chose what they wanted and it was placed in front of them. No sharing food.

Three weeks after the elementary schools children returned, middle school students and high school students had the option of returning, or continuing with online classes. The plan was that if the whole class wanted to return, they would be split in half and each group would go every other week. But for Oscar and Betty’s classes, only about half the kids wanted to return, so they could go every week.

For these older kids, masks were required and they were each given 4 white cotton masks that are washable and reusable.

Three weeks after that, President Macron announced that all students could attend at the same time for the last week of school. The same masks and handwashing requirements, but they didn’t need to split the classes anymore.

In early June the stores and banks and businesses started to reopen as well. Masks were required to enter, and shops with small square footage could only allow in a couple of people at a time. Stores put vinyl guidelines on the floor in front of registers to keep people properly spaced. And they put vinyl guidelines outside the doors too, so that if people needed to line up and wait their turn to shop, they would be properly spaced too. All stores provided hand sanitizer at the entrance and asked all customers to use it when coming inside. Most shops created plexiglass barriers at the registers to protect their employees. Citizens were still asked to limit their shopping and stay home as much as possible. All of these precautions are still in place and active.

Mid-June, our church reopened as well. We have a very small congregation, so it was possible for us. But it’s very modified. We let our church leaders know if we’ll be there ahead of time, so they can plan for us. Masks are required, and if you forget yours, they have a stack of the blue disposable masks at the door. When we arrive, there’s no chitchat or hanging out. We follow a specific path to our chairs — which are assigned and have our name on them. The chairs are spread out so no two families are close together. The meeting lasts 45 minutes, and then each family is dismissed one at a time and asked to go directly to their cars, no hanging out afterwards. There are special precautions for taking the sacrament too.

As the school year finished, the country reopened for travel within France’s borders, and at the beginning of July, travel within EU countries opened.

All of the reopening so far has happened in 2-3 week segments, so officials can track if there’s a new outbreak with each reopening change. But so far, so good.

Precautions are still in place. Restaurants have reopened but can not take big groups — I believe the max reservation is 10 people, and that’s only if the restaurant has adequate square footage. Tables at restaurants have to be spread out and they can’t take as many customers. Pretty much every store requires masks, as well as any National Monuments. Some stores are by appointment only. Plexiglass barriers at checkout points are the norm. There is still no shaking hands, or cheek kissing, or hugging. There are still no large gatherings. The community pool reopened, but only for laps, and you have to reserve one of the limited spots. Extra-curricular options for kids haven’t really restarted at all.

Even with all these safety precautions, as we traveled last week, it felt pretty normal. The biggest difference is the masks. When people are outside with plenty of space, the masks come off, but anytime there are a lot of people together — like the boat tour we took — masks are required. And I haven’t seen anyone complain or hesitate about the masks. Sometimes you’ll see someone enter a store without a mask and a worker will let them know one is required, and the customer will quickly say something like: Oops! I forgot. Sorry about that. And then pull a mask from their pocket.

I do think mask-wearing has eased up a bit here in outside spaces this month. But again, reopening has been so slow and careful, without signs of new outbreaks, and I think it’s understandable that people are feeling more confident to go without.

But I also know that if there’s even a tiny re-emergence of the virus, the people here won’t hesitate to get strict again. The French are lucky — they aren’t worried about how they’ll pay their bills, because they have vast and deep social safety nets.

I’m sure you’ve seen this chart of America compared to the EU. It is painful to watch covid-19 still raging in much of the U.S.. I’m sick about it and worried for my children, Maude and Ralph, who live there. If they get sick, can I go to the U.S. and take care of them? And if I do, will I be able to return to France when they are better?

I’m also heartsick for all the parents who are still trying to work without school, childcare, or summer camps. For those couple of weeks in June where all our kids were in school again? Holy cow, it makes SUCH A DIFFERENCE for how efficient and productive our work days were. And I’m sure I would be incredibly discouraged if I thought our kids weren’t going back in the fall. (Of course, if there’s a second wave, they won’t be.)

Trying to work at home and parent at the same time is so dang hard. And being asked to come into a store or office for work, when there are no childcare options available, is an impossible situation.

I’m especially frustrated for those people in the U.S. who kept a strict quarantine in March and April and May. If the whole country had done that, and carefully managed a nationwide reopening, the U.S. would be experiencing what the EU is experiencing: a modified, open, and covid-free summer.

But because shutdown orders and reopening orders have happened haphazardly around the U.S., and with different levels of strictness, the virus has only been contained in limited areas, and it feels like people will need to quarantine for a long time still. It’s infuriating to watch, and much more infuriating for the people living through it.

I also keep thinking about the horrible guidance we were all given in March about masks. I know some of it was based on not knowing enough about the virus and how it spreads, but it has also been reported that some of the advice was knowingly bad. And it has caused such huge problems. I remember specifically being told masks weren’t very effective, and that people wearing masks are more likely to touch their faces, and spread the virus that way. I was also told to save all masks for healthcare workers — an action that felt good to support. And I passed along all of that bad advice!

Instead, the experts and officials could have told us: Masks are essential. Save medical-grade masks for healthcare workers whenever possible. And if you have to go out, be sure to make at least a makeshift mask and wear it. They could have told us masks were important and that creating a huge mask supply was important, and Americans (who LOVE to make things) would have been all over that. Instead, this basic and effective safety tool has been politicized.

It’s especially infuriating because we can see now that in cities and countries where mask-wearing is expected and commonplace (like NYC), the virus seems to be under control.

What is all this like where you live? Did your community have a strict lockdown or was it more casual? What are infection rates like in your city or town? Are people still working at home a lot? What about school? Do you think your schools will reopen in the fall? If they do, will you be sending your kids? And do you have any thoughts on masks?

P.S. — The Circus of Covid Testing.

127 thoughts on “Will Your Kids Be Heading Back to School This Fall?”

  1. This is a little off topic, but what to French patents do in regilat times with their children out of school on Wednesdays? I have jever heard that before and find it very interesting.

    1. France in France

      Hi Kelle,
      In all French public schools, there is a “Centre de loisirs” which takes care of children from the ages of 3 to 11 (“école maternelle” to the end of primary school-aged children) on Wednesdays. They do a variety of fun activities there.
      Or some parents (dare I say it’s mostly mothers) take a part-time job to look after their children on Wednesdays.

  2. French living in NYC , I completely relate to your family reunion issues. We wont be able to leave the US because there is no re-entry possible . I wish France and the US could find a middle ground for visa exception / dislocated families. As for school, it will be part time in NYC and I am not even quite sure to understand why. As a French person, I see that as a liability issue rather than health concerns and I feel that this is going to be the case for a lots of things. Anyway , as much as we live our life here, this really makes us think of moving back to France permanently where a reasonable path and idea prevail and to get the kids back to school on a normal schedule.

  3. We’re in San Diego, just this week we took a second step back into restrictions – recently indoor dining/bars had to re-close, and earlier this week additional indoor activities had to close (like churches, gyms, salons). I think part of the problem is that with each “re-opening phase”, people think it’s free rein to go back to how things used to be. Maybe the word “re-open” is wrong? Nothing is like it was before Covid. Just b/c you like to eat out, and you used to go to restaurants five days/week and now they’re open again, does not mean you should do that. But by “re-opening” restaurants, and the invite to meet there with your four friends – well, look at what that has done. Also, in San Diego, masks for us are required any time you’re not in your home or personal vehicle, unless you’re exercising outdoors AND maintain 6′ distance from others. So in my print shop at work, we all wear masks ALL DAY – and I’m used to it. No biggie.

    Over the weekend, our school district (not SD, but outside, and public) asked: do you want (2) days on-campus/3 days Distance Learning (DL), OR (4) half-days DL (note: half-day is 7:50 to 10:50). THEN on Monday the SDUSD (San Diego Unified School District) announced DL only for the start of the school year (along with LA).

    So far, our school has not sent an update, so not sure we’ll follow suit to SD (but I’m guessing we will). In preparation, I re-enrolled our girls at their old school, a private school. The private school plans to open 5 full-days/week. They told me they have several extra meeting rooms they’re converting into classrooms, and they can bring in more teachers. (My girls are already back there right now for summer camp; so far I feel it’s been a safe experience; though I am very aware the minute you leave your house, there is risk.)

    But I’m not sold on sending them back there for the school year, b/c of the risk and frankly we feel the public school is a better education. Not to mention, last year, when my girls moved to their public school from the private school – it was a big transition for all of us. It was difficult on them (and me)! And the thought of yanking them around makes me even more sad and worried.

    It is all incredibly stressful, and changes way too often to stay on top of and remember how you’re feeling about anything….b/c by the time you know where you stand, it’s all different again.

    My husband keeps saying our country will FEEL and LOOK different when we have our new President, and I am holding onto those words and that hope with everything.

    Remember to check your voter registration!!!

  4. I’m in central Canada, and we’ve been doing really well. Our province shut down when we only had 3 cases reported. We had gone 13 days with no new cases and we’re down to only one active case, but now that things have opened up a bit more, we recorded 5 new cases yesterday. So despite that hard work, I’m still very cautious. People here were very good at respecting the restrictions – similar to there: only essential businesses were open, plexiglass installed at pretty much every retail counter, curbside pickup for many things, schools and all activities shutdown. But now that we’ve had this string of good fortune, I can see people getting a lot more casual. Some stores are still very cautious, but many have abandoned a lot of the precautions they had in place. Hardly anyone wears a mask now. And now we had these 5 new cases. So I’m not taking anything for granted.

    School here is supposed to start up September 9, but we already know busing won’t be possible for most students. Schools have already planned for less contact in the fall- our supply list includes more personal items to help with things like phys ed class so there will be limited sharing and the cafeteria may be a thing of the past. I’m hoping my job will remain at home so we can accommodate the changes more easily.

  5. I live in the US San Francisco Bay Area.
    Just yesterday our so called president eluded to his belief that the pandemic is a hoax.
    I’m simply dumbfounded.
    The virus is bad here and there’s such very poor leadership in our country. I’m truly disillusioned with life in America for the first time in my entire 65 years. If it isn’t about coronavirus, it’s racism, immigration, police violence, or corrupt government. If Canada wasn’t so cold………

  6. anon for this

    Thanks for this discussion forum, it’s nice to feel not alone. I have a neighborhood Covid horror story for you, if you want to marvel at the foolishness of Utahns… My friend and her family went down to Lake Powell, and brought along five other families from our street on their houseboat. They returned the 4th of July feeling sick, and in the past week 32/38 of them have coronavirus, including a baby. The three who are the most sick are women in their 50s. The ones who didn’t get it are teenagers (including one of her sons, who is now staying with her 80 year old mom to quarantine? which seems crazy to me). Two of the women have been hospitalized, one came home after a day because it was more dehydration than covid issues. My friend has now been moved to the ICU. Apparently one of the guys was using half-empty water bottles to refill the ice machine on the boat, which may be why it spread so fast. And that is why our numbers are bad… one of the 21 year old girls whose family is all sick posted on instagram “I don’t regret Lake Powell” and all of them chimed in with similar sentiments. “Lake Powell forever” so now they have their own little immunity club. I’m trying hard not to be critical and judgmental of my neighbors and friends, but I also wish there were a way to mark our hotspot street with a STAY AWAY sign.

  7. This is an impossible situation for a lot of families, like ours, who have no other choices. Both my husband and I have full time careers, since the pandemic our work has increased as our company has stressed taking care of our customers. We have two children (7 and 8 months) and no help at all. We built a support system and activities that all came crashing down in March. We do not have any family that can step in, I know many are in the same situation as us. It has been extremely taxing on us, our marriage and our mental health as we follow all the rules ourselves only to see others in our state (Florida) pay no regard to anyone else.

    Sending kids to school is the new thing to be mom shamed about, when some of us truly have no choice. Obviously I would never do anything to put my children in danger but our son has returned to daycare and our daughter will return to school. As we carefully monitor the situation, if it gets much worse, we would have to make the impossible choice between providing for our family and ending a career that I love and have worked so hard for and keeping my kids safe.

    Our daycare, with an almost year waiting list, did not allow children to be pulled out during the pandemic, even during lockdown, without going to the back of the waitlist line or continuing to pay tuition ($1200 a month). That is an impossible choice for parents who agonized over going back to work, then carefully weighted available daycares and carefully transitioned their babies; parents who have no other choices. They did change many policies, mask required for everyone over 2 in building, parents no longer can visit classrooms, touchless sign in and sign out, changes in sick policy but that does not change the guilt we feel every day sending him. It also does not change the constant judgment we get by people who are not in our shoes or in our bed as we agonize each night.

    Our elementary school started planning for the pending school year very early. They announced last school year that all students would remain in their same class with their same teacher. They also made it clear early on the expectation would be for children to wear masks all day, giving plenty of time to prepare our daughter. Our district is giving the option to continue with online learning or return to school, we live in a relativity wealthy district so I believe enrollment will be low, with many stay-at-home parents able to stay home with their children. The other safety precautions seems to be in line with many other districts.

    Again, I think this is an impossible choice. Our daughter did not do well with online learning, she thrives on social interaction and hands on learning. Staying home, with two working parents and a baby brother, she isn’t getting the attention she deserves. I have run myself ragged staying up late to make our home a substitute for school/summer camp. It is a lot and does not even touch all the other injustices that are going on in the world. It is just one thing. Children remain in cages, black lives are still being lost, following science has become a political statement and the possibility of four more years looms, among other things.

    1. Amanda – sending you hugs!! Our 7 year daughter has been miserable. We both work full time from home and have been trying to give her a summer experience without friends – it’s so tough. She missed school so much and we don’t know what fall is going to look like.

      Just last week we discovered a new online summer camp called Dash Camp. It’s 2 hours a day (4 sessions about 20-25 minutes each) on Zoom with dancing, art, puppet shows, magic shows, PE, and simple STEM activities. The instructors actually interact with the kids!!! It’s not perfect, but I can do my hearings upstairs, and my husband gets 2 hours of work while he sits at a desk in the same room as Ms. A while she participates in “camp”. She LOVES it!!! And, she doesn’t feel as lonely anymore. It’s not too expensive, and the sessions are recorded and can be played later if you need them.

      As for your littlest one – my heart breaks that you are judged for sending him to childcare. This is an incredibly hard choice during an incredibly hard time. You are doing your best!!

  8. I am in MD where we have had mandatory masks since almost the beginning of shutdown back in March. And I’m so grateful! Not least of all because it put everyone on the same page. I do believe a countrywide mandate through the summer of mask-wearing and social distancing or modified shutdown could have meant safe in person school for everyone. But easy for me to say when I know SEVERAL people who have been sick with the virus and one person who died. I have to acknowledge that would be harder for someone who doesn’t even know someone who knows someone with covid.
    School plans have been vague and slow to be shared and it is hard. One thing that helps me is to continue to view the actual disease as the bad thing that has happened to us and not blame school admin or state leadership. Whether they are great or terrible at their job, there is no right choice given the current circumstances. My main concern is for students who can’t learn safely or well at home for all the countless reasons and for our teachers who are once again going to be thrown a giant curveball.

  9. After reading all of these comments I feel so sad and MAD for where we are. I live in a beach community in Southern California that is unrecognizable. People are being awful to each other and so incredibly selfish. It is busier here than it has ever been in the 25 years that we have lived here. Trash everywhere, fireworks at all hours, no one following basic traffic rules, it is an absolute s**t show. They refuse to close the beaches (other than the 4th of July-because life guards had contracted the virus) because people need their Vit. D! Our board of education just voted to have schools reopen with no social distancing and no masks and our county is a hot spot! It is like we are living in an alternate universe and people have lost their minds!

    My family has not been out much. Our older son graduated from college with no ceremony. His job was put on hold so he came home from NYC to figure out his next steps. Our younger daughter graduated from 8th grade. Her school had graduation but we did not attend. We have not been out much, but we have the luxury of grocery delivery. I have not been to a store in over 4 months. We have been going to a local farm and getting delivery. My husband has been working from home since March and it has been flawless. That is one silver lining! He has been driving two plus hours a day to Los Angeles for work and now he works from home. I have a reusable bag company that is temporarily closed. Reusable bags have been banned here and we are back to single use plastic :(

    We live across the street from the beach and have not been to the beach in over 4 months because it is sooooo crowded. It is truly unbelievable. Our sidewalks now have signs that direct people to walk one way and it is completely ignored.

    We have put our house on the market after living in this community for 25 years. I cannot think of spending anymore of my life surrounded by these people and their completely insane views. I only wish I could pack up my family and move into Gabrielle’s garden shed. We would scrap wallpaper and work for free! But we can’t, we are stuck behind the wall.

    But at the same time I can’t help but think about how all of these smart, hardworking people in the above comments can do something! We have to be able to put our heads together and do something. It is a lot and taking on another “project” seems daunting but this is so big. Let’s do something!

    1. Your comment is so heartbreaking and powerful. I’m so sorry for your business, your moving out… but you live true to your ideals, and that’s such a strong example for your children, but also us readers. Sending all the energy, from France.

      1. Thank you so much for your positive thoughts and energy. We are all connected and in this together. I wish everyone could see that. Sending you peace from California!

  10. I live in the Bay Area and to paraphrase a Twitter I saw, this pandemic has been the worst group project ever. We have been sheltering since mid March, friends have lost jobs and been furloughed, and virus levels are still rising. It is so frustrating that all this sacrifice has been for naught and we are still not in a place we could be like how you describe Gabby. I read a nytimes editorial saying Americans have drank away our children’s education – we prioritized people being able to go to bars and restaurants over committing to getting virus levels down to safely send our kids back to school.

    We are fortunate to have Governor Newsom who I think is doing his best to open up our huge complicated state and I am I can’t express how relieved I am that he is at the helm.

    Someone told me that the US is the best country in the world – I bit my tongue but in my mind “I am cutting up old tshirts to make masks for my family because our government can’t get its act together. We are FAR from being the greatest.”

    1. I live in Southern CA and I agree with you. I feel very fortunate to have Gov Newsome at the helm as well. I feel that he tries his best to be guided by science and data. Today he mandated that schools in 32 counties will not open until cases go down. As a mother of four and a teacher, I am relieved that we will be online until very specific criteria have been met. My heart goes out to all of the parents, students, and teachers who don’t have this option.

  11. Oh, my heart hurts reading so many of this comments. And I commiserate – I also feel the pain and stress of being an American, a mom, a CEO of a company and a pregnant person during this time! I keep thinking how lucky Gabby is that she escaped the US while she had the chance. We dream of living overseas and between Trump and Covid, that dream has never been more important to us.

    We’re still really on the fence about sending our preschooler back in August. The only saving grace (possibly?) is that our daughter’s preschool is extremely small – she only has 8 kiddos in her class – and the teachers and director are very cautious. I know if they decide to reopen, it will be with a lot of safety precautions in place. Although we also have a new baby coming in November, so it might be too much to have sis in school and newborn at home.

    Trying to take it one day at a time and not panic before I need to. So grateful my business is still doing well and we’re able to juggle childcare and work for now. In the meantime…viva la France! And literally everywhere else but here!

  12. Back to school in France will take place on Tuesday September 1 for kindergarten and elementary school students. In middle and high school it is common that there is a time difference (hours or days depending on age).
    As the wearing of the mask in an enclosed environment will be compulsory from August 1, teachers and students over 11 will wear the masks (as in June).

  13. We live in NJ and so have been on total lockdown for much of the time since mid March. We literally didn’t see my Mom for months for fear of spreading covid, my daughter had no graduation from high school, my son didn’t get to play baseball this spring and dear friends of ours are struggling to keep their business afloat since they still can’t have people in their restaurant nor cater since there are no events to cater. We are slowly coming out of lockdown but I am so, so angry that we have had no leadership during this time so now while other parts of the country have numbers soaring we will have to continue this for an unclear amount of time. It feels as if our efforts, and losses, were for nothing.

    My daughter is supposed to go overseas for college and I hope and pray that she is able to go as I feel that she will be much safer in Scotland (where their measures were swift, strict and universal) than she would be at University here.

  14. I live in Georgetown, Texas and our school district is putting out a second survey for parents. Texas opened at a similar rate as France — if you saw the news you’d have thought everything just popped open and Texans ignored the virus. Not true —- it was a slow role out. We moved from LA, so I was also tracking what was happening in our previous town. LA wasn’t going to get out of lockdown until July, but the push back was so bad, that they ended up opening (and catching up) with Texas. We can not afford another lockdown. Our family has used as much sense as possible. Only one of us does the grocery shopping, our actvities are outdoors, etc. I have had to fly once and wore the mask the whole time.
    We have friends whose entire *no one under age 40, with the virus and had minimal symptoms and bounced back within 8 days. Testing negative before 2 weeks was up. But my husband has had three people test positive on his job site and one passed away. I don’t know age, underlying conditions, etc. So again, we are not taking it lightly.
    Parents I know, hope that schools will open and do a modified version, like your children participated in, with on-line being an option as well.
    It seems the 18-30 year olds couldn’t contain themselves with bars, parties, etc. So, now the country is hysterical and begging officials to close up. And then what? There’s no great answer, but many locations have made modifications easily!!! Plastic barriers should have been up for grocery workers ages ago! I hope they never remove the vinyl on the floor — how nice is it not to be too close to a stranger who might have the flu (forget the virus! the flu sucks too!). I always wondered how all the payments we make while using a PIN pad hasn’t killed us all off with germs! Washing hands for kids before lunch, etc, should be mandatory!

  15. Our governor re-opened businesses in early June and refuses to put a mask mandate in place. Now our county has a surge of new cases. I live in a college town in Iowa so many of the new cases are young people who have been going out to bars and restaurants with no protection. Now our school district has ruled that schools will be online only until at least October 6th. According to an epidemiologist at our large teaching hospital, our county cannot safely reopen schools with our current numbers. It’s really frustrating as we have been isolating for months!
    I am probably going to opt to homeschool our kids rather than use the online learning provided by our district. I am sure what they put together will be fine but I’d like more flexibility in our schedule and studies if we are going to be doing this at home. Tentatively, I plan to homeschool them through the winter break and then consider sending them back for the remainder of the school year if schools are in session.

    1. Sarah – I work full time and we have someone come watch the kids (she’s a former teacher!). I am ready to send them in person but I also refuse to do online. We will homeschool. Virtual was horrible.

      The sad thing is my daughter will have had basically 5 months of preschool before kindergarten if it’s virtual this entire year. It breaks my heart.

      [Edited to remove misinformation.]

      At the end the country f’ed it up. We don’t prioritize the education of our kids and probably never will.

      We have failed our children in the USA.

      1. There are outbreaks in camps and daycares. Please don’t post disinformation. My friend is a pediatrician and she is seeing more and more patients (sick kids, not asymptomatic) in her office. Furthermore, kids are carriers. So they will be passing on whatever they catch to teachers, staff, and other families.

        1. Almost all major news companies have articles that say this.

          Yes it’s a risk but otherwise you are failing children. A year of virtual is bull to anyone under the age of 10.

          By the way, the virus numbers are 10 – 20x the amount in the news since of asymptotic people. So at what point do we go back? A vaccine? So in 3 years? I’d like to see everyone stay home for that long.

  16. I have read all the comments and every body here sounds so brave and conscious. Voting is your super power. Many thoughts of solidarity and empathy, your way, from France.

  17. We are in Victoria BC, Canada. Our schools closed quite quickly and everything else followed. We have slowly reopened and a lot of places have modified their businesses and kept them as “takeaway” only. The university and colleges went to all online and will stay that way in the fall. It looks like we will have the choice to keep our kids home for online learning and that those who are in need (children of essential workers/students with high needs) have the option of full time. K-6 will be offered more days of in school instruction while the older kids will only have 1-2 depending on where we are with the rate of infection. The premiere and our minister of health (Bonnie Henry! Look her up, she is amazing and I just love her calm, honest approach) have been very clear that they will be watching the situation closely and things could change. Our kids are going into grade 8 and grade 11 and they managed fine online so we are hoping to just keep them home. I think we have 4 active cases on our Island right now so we do feel safe and like we are in a bit of a bubble. The border is closed to the US for non essential travel and we are praying it stays that way even though my family is down there and we miss them a lot (and worry about them as lot). I do feel like people are easing up a lot which worries me but I do find everyone is good about social distancing and the beaches don’t feel to crowded to be at all.

  18. I really appreciate your blog and always find it so balanced, non judgmental and based on science and facts. I’m a few days late here but took great comfort in reading the comments. I am relieved that so many people are as disgusted and concerned as I am.

    One thought keeps permeating my brain….I do hope people come out to the polls and VOTE this November. I don’t think it matters what political party people are affiliated with, we need a change in the US. Time for new leadership. Lets pray that people show their disgust when it really matters–during election season–and lets get back to some kind of order in the US.

  19. I think this is a well written article on this topic.

    I’m in suburban NY and schools usually open after Labor Day. We don’t know what ours is going to offer yet. I have one kid starting middle school and one starting high school. I don’t have the same childcare concerns as someone with younger kids because mine can be home on their own short term but I wouldn’t want that all day, 5 days a week for months. I’ve been fortunate my job has us all working remotely but that could end at any point. If they do go to school part time it needs to be on the same days – I wouldn’t want either of them home alone.

  20. Wow. Reading all of these posts from the Americans is very frightening. I live in Ontario, Canada and it sounds very similar to your experience in France, however our kids did not go back to school in June. Businesses are reopening and our district has zero cases currently. Things are still slow going, new happenings every 3 weeks or so. I own a spa and In June I could start providing all spa services from the neck down, so now facial grooming or facials. And just yesterday we were allowed to begin facials again. Lots of new protocols and mask wearing but no complaints from customers. In the district over mine though they have now made it mandatory to wear a mask in any inside public space so I am sure that rule is coming here soon. Thanks for keeping us updated!

  21. Teacher from rural Québec, Canada here! We went back to school in May as well so I can speak a bit about how it went at my school at least.
    We followed basically the exact same plan as France from the sounds of it. Closed down regions (the island of Montreal saw a lot of cases so I couldn’t go visit my sister, for example). All of our schools and businesses closed at once, even as a teacher I wasn’t even given notice… I got a 5am phone call on the Friday morning that we’d be closed for two weeks and then we never went back. My poor principal was the only one allowed in the building so she had to go around watering everyone’s plants for the duration of the lockdown haha! I was still paid to stay home, and federal money (CERB 2000$/ month) was available to those who needed it. We had 24/7 “emergency daycares” set up that offered free childcare for essential workers.

    We did our best to transition to virtual learning but tbh I hated it, the kids hated it, the parents hated it. The Education Ministry sent home optional “work packets” via email with lessons and activities for the kids to do that I was allowed to modify and ameliorate to fit my students. It was… ok, but mostly a write-off. With no time to prepare, we were scrambling to get laptops and internet sticks to kids without, get food to kids that rely on school breakfasts and lunches, etc. I had some parents that I just couldn’t reach, some who flat-out told me they wouldn’t be doing at-home schooling, some complaining that I wasn’t sending enough work, kids crying to me on the phone that they wanted to come back to school.

    We had a ton of cases spiking back in March and April, tragically mainly in our (criminally underfunded) old age residences. As the numbers slowly came under control, elementary schools opened on May 11th. Like it was for you, it was optional here and my elementary school had about 60% of the kids return. The staff went back a week early to set up temporary hand washing stations, arrows on the floor colour-coded by group, etc… I wore a mask and visor because I work in special education, but not all teachers had to and neither did children. Transportation was offered, but parents were encouraged to walk/ drive their kids.

    I was super skeptical when we went back. I would have bet my house that there would be a spike in cases and that it was all going to go horribly. I cried the night before I had to return to work. I was wrong. The kids adapted well, and I could see how happy they were to be with friends again, even at 2m apart. Yes it was a lot of logistics (it took us an entire afternoon just to figure out how to split the yard into zones and give each class 3 recesses without the groups intermingling). We got creative, we worked together as a staff, worked with the kids to find solutions, it was actually a really beautiful thing to see. Some of the games that the kids came up with to play at recess while maintaining social distancing were sheer brilliance. We even managed to do our end of the year party social-distancing style with an ice cream truck and an outdoor show for the kids!

    I feel very sad for people living in the USA with skyrocketing cases and schools about to open, because the kids DO need to go back… but not at any cost. But mostly I’m devastated that the adults aren’t working harder to get the virus under control so that the children can go back to school safely.

  22. I am not sure of the science but would like to know how we have avoided the worst of the pandemic here in Australia, without mask wearing. There has been similar measures to France, except for the masks. There is very very little mask wearing, like I see maybe one or two people a week wearing one. Our cases are down, there was two active cases in my state (Queensland) over the past few weeks and there has been six deaths in total since it started. Restaurants stayed open throughout but until the last month or so were only allowed to serve takeaway. Schools closed for a bit, state borders closed and lots of businesses (but not all) transitioned to working from home in the peak. Overall I would say things feel back to normal now. I only speak for my area here – we have one state (Victoria) where things are quite bad and they are going back into lockdown. I believe masks are about to become mandatory in Victoria. It is strange because the rest of the country seems almost back to normal.

    1. I imagine closing state borders (and international borders) helped a ton. That has not been done at all in the U.S. — you can cross state lines anytime, there are no checks, and international travel to the U.S. slowed, but never stopped — and there is no mandatory or enforced quarantining if you do travel across state or national borders.

      1. Some states on the East coast have a mandatory quarantine for guests coming from US states with high cases, but it seems impossible to enforce unless traveling by air.

        1. Hey Betsy, Australia closed state borders for car/any travel. They have had personnel stationed at the borders and a permit system for people that have to travel due to essential work or because they live in border towns. Of course, we are much more spread out than the U.S so I can imagine it was a bit easier here. There are sections of Australian borders that don’t even have roads or vehicle access!

  23. This is really interesting to read and what you describe about the slow and cautious re-opening in France is what I expected would have happened in the UK but sadly I don’t feel safe to go out at all. We ourselves put our family in lockdown on 4th March after seeing what had been happening around the world (it didn’t take a genius to work out the pattern of how rapidly covid was spreading) but the whole country didn’t start lockdown until a few weeks later and so many thousands of deaths could/should have been prevented. Schools are supposed to be going back in september and yet none of the 3 schools my children are at have been able to assure me that school will be a safe place for them – so until it is a safe place for sure, then mine won’t be going back. We are monitoring the trends/ numbers ourselves at home so we can see what is happening over time rather than just relying on what the media / govt is reporting and we will make our own decisions for our family to keep my children safe based on this. Thank you for writing this piece.

  24. “they aren’t worried about how they’ll pay their bills, because they have vast and deep social safety nets.”
    As a business owner in the South of France I feel like you’re presenting a pretty rosy / privileged view of the confinement. Me and most people I know have really struggled financially, and there have been MANY closures, especially here in Marseille where we have extremely high unemployment and poverty. If my parents had not helped me financially I would have had to close my business. Yes, France handled the situation better than the US, but it’s really not that hard to do something better than a half baked Bravo star.

    1. Yes, I agree it’s a rosy view. But it really IS rosy compared to what’s happening in the U.S.. I would paint the same rosy picture of Canada, Germany, Australia and other countries too — not just France. I don’t think people understand how little help Americans have access to from the government. When people lose jobs (and millions of them have), they lose all health insurance too. The same is not true in France. France does have vast and deep social safety nets — with or without a pandemic. That’s not an exaggeration. And the U.S. does not.

  25. Sure I understand, I’m American. The US is the only? large, wealthy country that doesn’t offer what is, to most people, the most basic, essential service of their government. This doesn’t mean that because France has universal health care that the French response to the pandemic was coherent or that millions of people aren’t currently suffering. Saying people don’t have to worry about paying their bills here is inaccurate and a huge exaggeration.

    1. I disagree. I live in one of the poorest areas of France. The businesses that are struggling in our town, were already struggling before the pandemic. The people that are worried about bills, were already worried before the pandemic — not because the government’s pandemic response destroyed their job. The pandemic response in the U.S. continues to destroy jobs. Even when accounting for population, the differences in jobs destroyed between the U.S. and other countries paints a pretty rosy picture of the pandemic response in France and other places.

      I’m truly sorry that your business is struggling and I’m glad to hear your parents were able to help you out. It’s hard to run a business right now. I hear you. I don’t know when or if I’ll be able to hold another Alt Summit, and I haven’t had a sponsored post since the pandemic began. To be clear, it’s a pandemic, the first worldwide pandemic in living memory, and obviously every country (with the exception of New Zealand, which has apparently been flawless) could have done better.

      It’s not an exaggeration to describe how impressed I’ve been with the response I’ve seen in France, as well as reports coming out of places like Canada and Australia (I have lots of readers in these countries, so I hear more reports from these places than others).

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