By Marlo Van Oorschot
Van Oorschot Law Group PC
For over a year, children have been attending school via remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If all things go according to plan, most children will return to the schoolhouse for the 2021/2022 school year. With the return to school, the school may look very different, such as possible hybrids models with children partially doing remote schooling; a longer school year; staggered vacations, not to mention masks, social distancing, and vaccine requirements. Parents need to be prepared to co-parent with each other or get to court sooner rather than later, to address any modifications needed to their existing court orders. Here are some things to consider.
COVID Vaccine. Once the vaccine for children exists, there is likely to be little to no controversy about a child needing to be immunized if the child is to attend public or private school, as well as daycare. The news from the State of California is that COVID-19 will be a mandatory vaccine in order for a child to attend school or daycare, just like other vaccines (for example, the polio vaccine, measles vaccine, and the chickenpox vaccine). Our prior blog post on the legal custody issues surrounding vaccinations can be found here: https://mvolaw.com/2021/01/the-covid-19-vaccine-for-children-an-issue-of-legal-custody/
School Schedule. Los Angeles Unified School District is offering parents two academic school year options which involve a different additional number of days added to the school year; and different lengths of winter vacation. Other schools may do the same. Parents typically share joint legal custody and must jointly make educational decisions for their children. If your children’s school offers these types of choices, it is important that parents determine sooner rather than later if they are able to agree on the school track for their children. If not, then a request needs to be filed with the court for a parent to seek a court order to allow them to make the educational decision for the children without the consent of the other. Given that school is scheduled to start in August, 2021, such a request should be filed well in advance to assure a hearing and court decision is obtained well in advance of the school year.
Vacation Schedule. Because the school year will look different, so will some of the vacation periods. Review your existing court orders, as many orders, for example, contemplate a two-week winter break. For some this year, the vacation will be three weeks. If your court order does not contemplate the sharing of this extended time, seek an agreement from the other parent on how to share the new holiday and vacation schedules being implemented by the school and if necessary, seek the court’s assistance well in advance to modify your court order.
Tutoring. Many children will benefit from tutoring as a result of the past year of remote learning. The decision to tutor children as well as the sharing of such an expense needs to be agreed upon by parents who share joint legal custody. If parents cannot agree on whether or not to have a child be tutored or how to share the expense, a court order should be sought.
Like everything else this past year, we are in unchartered waters when children return to school post-pandemic. While not everything can be predicted, there is much that can be predicted and planned for well in advance so as to provide a smooth re-entry to school for your children.