AUSTIN, Texas — The holidays are officially coming to an end. Many kids spent the last couple of weeks tucked away at home or on vacation and now they're all getting ready to head back to class.
However, because many left the state, some parents are concerned about the COVID-19 omicron variant.
Austin mother, Mariette Hummel, is worried about sending her son back.
"Omicron is many times more contagious than the delta variant," said Hummel. "So, it's not something we've done before. It's something new, and it's something different. And we, as parents, believe there should be different and new measures for that."
Hummel's concern brought her and 50 other parents to send an email to Austin ISD asking for more COVID-19 safety measures.
This is what they want:
- Access to testing offered before return from the holiday break
- Delayed start after the winter break to allow for more testing
- Virtual learning option after the holiday break
- Require high-quality masks that are secured over the nose and mouth.
- Outdoor lunch options; if not available, allow parents to pick up kids for lunch and eat with them outside
- Require athletes, cheer and dance to train masked or rapid test before training unmasked
- Require and enforce masks for audiences at sporting events, recitals, and other school events, even outdoors
- Better physical spacing and more HEPA filters throughout the buildings.
Julie Zweig said her third-grader fears catching COVID-19 and has gone through lengthy measures to stay safe.
"He's snuck outside when it was raining because he didn't want to eat lunch, but he was hungry, and he knew that he needed to eat outdoors," said Zweig.
Zweig said the damage isn't only physical. She finds her son worrying if he's safe on school grounds.
"You know, people don't talk about it a lot, but the mental health [issues] that this causes for the children, particularly ones that have anxiety issues," said Zweig. "They're not learning throughout the day when all they're thinking about is whether or not they're going to be safe at lunch."
Steven Cook is confident in Austin's school system. He worries about the experience his daughter will lose with stricter restrictions.
"For the children, which is most important to us, it seemed extremely devastating to the whole social ... integrating and all that kind of stuff, getting connected with each other and getting that school experience," said Cook.
Despite that, parent's worry.
"We do feel this is a different ballgame and that next week we can't return the way we have in the fall," said Hummel.
Hummel still hasn't decided whether to send her kids to school. She finds herself stuck in deciding between their health and education.
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