San Antonio pediatrician offers pros, cons of sending children back to school

Families have plenty to consider in making difficult decision

Dr. Robert Sanders, a pediatrician with University Health System, looks at the pros and cons of in-school and virtual learning from an academic and health standpoint.

SAN ANTONIO – The 2020-2021 school year will no doubt be the most challenging academic period ever for students and parents due to the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presents.

For parents, it’s deciding whether to send their children back to school or have them stay at home and learn virtually.

No parent wants their child to get sick at school, but online learning may not be the best option for some either.

Dr. Robert Sanders, a pediatrician with University Health System, said there are pros and cons of both in-school and virtual learning from an academic and health standpoint.

What are the advantages of in-school learning?

“The way the kids grow and the way they develop, it’s important to have those social interactions. To have those interactions with other students and teachers and to be able to learn in that environment, it’s important,” Sanders said.

He adds that there are resources at school that children don’t have at home, including social workers and other teachers.

Another important factor is that children will have two meals a day when they attend class in person.

What are the disadvantages of in-school learning?

There’s no doubt the risk of contracting coronavirus and bringing it home increases if children are on campus.

“And if they’re exposing other family members in those higher-risk groups, like above the age of 50 or 65 … those people can get very sick of COVID, and that’s the risk we need to be thinking about,” Sanders said.

What are the advantages of virtual learning?

“The good things are the fact that you’re minimizing your risk of contracting COVID, of course. If you have family members with high-risk conditions that are going to have to be around your child frequently, this is certainly something you’re going to want to consider,” Sanders said.

Other advantages include parents having more time to be with their children and be engaged in their learning.

What are the disadvantages of virtual learning?

Perhaps the biggest con to virtual learning will be is if parents must work, distance learning will be a big challenge for the student.

Another factor is to consider how well your child learns.

“If you’re in a situation where you feel like your child learns well, virtually, and you can’t provide that support structure at home, I think it would be an excellent option for those kids,” Sanders said.

Parents, though, may not have the final say as school boards are ultimately going to decide what form of learning a school district is going to offer.

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David Ibañez has been managing editor of since the website's launch in October 2000.