How Risky Is It to Send My Kids to School in a Pandemic?

An update on COVID-19 exposure and transmission risks

Chana Davis, PhD
10 min readOct 21, 2020
Back to school in the new normal.

When elementary schools opened this fall, my family opted in. We felt that the small risk of COVID-19 was worth the huge benefits.

Yet, as we kissed our three monkeys goodbye, and returned home to a quiet house, our jubilation was tinged with trepidation.

We knew that our best efforts to estimate the back-to-school risks were crude at best. A month later, we have a much clearer picture of the risks we are all assuming — kids, families, and communities.

As a parent, my big concern is that my kids will get infected, and possibly spread it to others. This story shares what we have learned about exposure risk, transmission risk, and community spread, all of which can help you understand your own risk.

How likely is it that my child will be exposed to COVID-19 at school?

The first piece of the risk puzzle is your COVID-19 exposure risk: the risk that your child is exposed to somebody who is carrying COVID-19 and may spread to others.

What is an exposure? An “exposure” is when someone shows up at school with COVID-19 during their infectious period (presumably unaware)



Chana Davis, PhD

Scientist (PhD Genetics @Stanford) * Mother * Passionate about science-based healthy choices * Lifelong learner * Founder: Fueled by Science