Grandparents raising students face difficult decision to send children back to school or face virus exposure

More than 263,000 grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren under 18 years old in Texas

SAN ANTONIO – Amid increased health risks, families in which students are under their grandparents' care face a difficult decision as the new school year begins -- sending them back to school and risk possible COVID-19 infection or keeping them at home to learn virtually.

Mercedes Bristol has chosen to keep her grandchildren at home during the school year.

“At our age, you know, we’re very susceptible to any kind of virus, and so, I don’t know how the schools are going to manage the virus at this point,” Bristol said.

Bristol, executive director of the nonprofit Texas Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, has been taking care of her five grandchildren for nine years. After taking custody of her grandkids, she created the organization following the challenges of not knowing where to get resources for guardians like her.

She said some of the reasons grandparents take care of their grandkids are because the parents have died, are incarcerated or are not responsible enough to take care of them.

Bristol said during the COVID-19 pandemic, many grandparents are facing similar situations.

“Not sending them to school -- grandparents are going to be very challenged with homeschooling,” she said.

Bristol said the pandemic has created many challenges for grandparents.

“One of the things that we had a lot of instances with grandparents is that they don’t have the means of transportation. So when they have to go to the store, you know, they have to get rides or they go on the bus,” Bristol said.

As students go back to school, grandparents must make one of the hardest decisions that could impact their lives.

“If we’re going to continue to send our kids to school, I think we’re just going to see an increase in COVID,” Bristol said.

In Texas, more than 263,000 grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren under 18 years old.

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