DALLAS, Ga. (AP) — Putting your child on the bus for the first day of school is always a leap of faith for a parent. Now, on top of the usual worries about youngsters adjusting to new teachers and classmates, there's COVID-19.
Rachel Adamus was feeling those emotions Monday morning as she got 7-year-old Paul ready for his first day of second grade and prepared 5-year-old Neva for the start of kindergarten.
With a new school year beginning this week in some states, Adamus struggled to balance her fears with her belief that her children need the socialization and instruction school provides, even as the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has hit about 155,000 and cases are rising in numerous places.
As the bus pulled away from the curb in Adamus' Dallas, Georgia, neighborhood, the tears finally began to fall.
"We have kept them protected for so long," said Adamus, who said her aunt died from COVID-19 in Alabama and her husband's great uncle succumbed to the virus in a New Jersey nursing home. "They haven't been to restaurants. We only go to parks if no one else is there. We don't take them to the grocery store. And now they're going to be in the classroom with however many kids for an entire day with a teacher."
The Adamus children are among tens of thousands of students across the nation who were set to resume in-person school Monday for the first time since March. Parents in Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee will also be among those navigating the new academic year this week.
Many schools that are resuming in-person instruction are also giving parents a stay-at-home virtual option; Adamus, like many other parents, decided against that. Other schools are planning a hybrid approach, with youngsters alternating between in-person classes and online learning.
However, an uptick in COVID-19 cases in many states has prompted districts to scrap in-person classes at least for the start of the school year, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington.
President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have urged schools to reopen. However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, warned Monday: "There may be some areas where the level of virus is so high that it would not be prudent to bring the children back to school."
"So you can't make one statement about bringing children back to school in this country. It depends on where you are," he said.
In Georgia's Paulding County, both of Adamus' children wore masks, though that is not mandatory for the 30,000 students in the county, about 25 miles northwest of Atlanta. Adamus said her son and daughter understand what's happening at a basic level — that there are germs and they need to stay home.
"My daughter's been saying a lot lately, 'I can't wait for the germs to go away,'" she said.
Adamus lives near North Paulding High School, where the principal sent a letter during the weekend announcing a football player tested positive for the virus after attending practice. The Georgia High School Association, in a memo last week, said it has received reports of 655 positive tests since workouts for football and other sports started June 8.
In Mississippi, where the virus is spreading fast, Emily Thompson's son started the sixth grade at Newton County Middle/High School in Decatur. Thompson, a pharmacist, said she felt relief watching him get in line to have his temperature taken before entering the building.
She and her husband, who also works in health care, found it was a "nightmare" trying to keep the boy and their two other elementary school-age children on track with their studies. She said she is not overly worried about her children getting sick at school.
"It would be more detrimental not to send them, in my opinion, than for them to hang out and do the virtual learning," she said. "I think they're going to get more interaction at school. They are going to learn more at school. They just need to be in that setting."
In Indiana, where schools reopened last week, a student at Greenfield-Central Junior High tested positive on the first day back to class and was isolated in the school clinic.
"This really does not change our plans," School Superintendent Harold Olin said. "We knew that we would have a positive case at some point in the fall. We simply did not think it would happen on Day One."