“Are you doing hybrid or remote?” It’s the opening line for many parental conversations right now, sort of like when a waiter would ask “still or sparkling?” at a restaurant (back when we could do that).

Right now about 70% of Boston-area schools plan to bring kids back at least part-time, although who knows what will happen a month from now. Jewish schools have their own plans.

My family’s choice is due on Friday. Just like so many of us have become amateur epidemiologists, I’ve become an expert on school committee meetings. I lurk on their Zoom debates with administrators, trying to decipher what they’re saying like an amateur Angela Lansbury on “Murder, She Wrote.” Which model is pedagogically best? How many people are they trying to cram into a classroom at once? And what’s this about air filters?

Right now, we’re pretty much set on remote for my fourth-grader. (Don’t even ask me about what my 3-year-old is doing. He is enrolled in TV Academy.) But I go back and forth about 30 times a day, wondering if I’m making the right choice. Here’s what I’m thinking about:

  1. If I send him to school, will I worry that every sniffle is a sign of impending doom and disease?
  2. Can he learn properly in a classroom with tons of space and hygiene restrictions?
  3. Can teachers even teach if they’re anxious? Are we contributing to their anxiety by sending him? And who will be teaching him on hybrid off days, anyway, when his home teacher is with the second half of the alphabet?
  4. What if hybrid becomes remote in a matter of weeks, when (I’m guessing it’s a matter of when) cases spike? Why not just begin the way we’ll end?
  5. If we do opt for remote learning, am I turning him into some kind of isolated leper who won’t be able to see his friends?
  6. Can he manage to sit in front of a screen for six hours a day?
  7. Can I actually monitor him in front of a screen for six hours a day? I work!
  8. He’s dyslexic. How’s he going to get his writing services? Do I have to hire more tutors? How much will that cost? (Guess we can use all the money we saved from canceled camps….)
  9. Will a remote teacher even know him? Will they be from his home school, from our district or Zoomed in from another planet?
  10. What will make him happiest? Or, really, the least discontent?

I asked his opinion, and he’s actually pretty sanguine about the whole thing. He told me he thinks he’d be more comfortable learning at home because the classroom experience would be too strange. I agree with him, but my heart also breaks because we love our school, we love our community and we love our friends. I miss seeing people in the course of a normal day, at drop-off or after-school pickup, at school events and on the playground. All of those little moments we used to take for granted are gone now. With remote school, they’ll continue to be absent from our lives, and that’s a bleak thought.

At the same time, I can’t send him to school if he’s worried about being in the classroom and if I’m worried about his safety, even if cases are still relatively low right now. I don’t know when that will change. I’m anxious anyway, and I don’t need to throw one more variable into the mix.

To compensate, we’re enrolling him in some online classes with friends, improv from Outschool (their online learning platform is great) and fall baseball. We may even walk over to school during pickup and drop-off to say hi to friends. He can bike, masked, through the neighborhood and have outdoor playdates. We may even get a heat lamp for our backyard to keep the party going throughout the winter, if we can find one that doesn’t cost $1,000 from Home Depot.

So, for now, that’s our plan. It doesn’t feel wonderful, but it feels relatively safe and deliberate. I’d love to know how other people are thinking. Let me know! And good luck with your own surveys!