Back to School — Ready or Not

Normally, the end of August is a pretty predictable time for parents. We start winding down summer camps and ending our vacations. We shop for school supplies and maybe some new cute clothes for our kids. Most importantly, we attempt to get our kids (and ourselves!) back in the game for the daily routines and demands of the school year.

Last year, of course, all of that changed —  it certainly was a back to school season like no other before it. Suddenly, we were faced with a daunting choice; send our kids back to school, in person, during an ongoing global pandemic. Or juggle our children's education remotely while simultaneously adapting to what, for many of us, was a new work-from-home reality. Few would have predicted at the time that, a full school year later, many of us would continue to face the same difficult choices as last year.

Of course, so much has changed since then. Most importantly: many of us are now fully vaccinated, providing us with powerful protection against hospitalization or death from the coronavirus. Many of our kids are fully vaccinated as well — and there’s a reasonable chance that children 5 years and up will be eligible by the end of the year.

But there's been some negative developments this year compared to last year, too. At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, the United States was reporting around 42,000 new cases of Covid-19 every day. This year, we're entering back to school season with a roughly 278% increase over last year's numbers, with 159,000 daily new cases. Last year, despite our concerns and lack of vaccines, it looked like we may have finally rounded the corner. This year, we are making decisions about our kids' education smack-dead in the middle of the country's third wave — or is it the fourth? Or the fifth? 

Even more distressing in some ways is the debate about masks in school, which has reached a fevered pitch. Though masks continue to be the best way to protect our unvaccinated kids, in particular, the conversations around them have become incredibly politicized, with 5 states —  Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah —  passing legislation to ban mask mandates completely. 

Still, whether we want to or not, our community of queer dads seems to be adapting to what is quickly starting to look like our new reality for the time being. In a survey we conducted of our Instagram followers about the back to school season this week, 68% of our respondents said they were sending their kids to school in person this year — last year, when we polled our followers, only 34% of respondents planned to do the same. 

Our concerns about the back to school season, however, remain similar to last year. Chief among these concerns is our children's health: 53% of respondents said their greatest fear right now is their children contracting Covid-19 in the classroom. But many others worry even more about the toll the pandemic is taking on our childrens' educational advancement (23%) and social skills (11%). Only 13% of dads said they shared none of these concerns.  

As in all things, though, gay dads are resilient — and are approaching the school year with a smile (at least while the kids are still looking). Enjoy our annual roundup of "back to school" pics in the photo essay below. And keep them coming! Send them along to


Posted by David Dodge, Editor

David Dodge, Executive Editor, is a writer, researcher and LGBTQ advocate with a special interest in non-traditional families, politics, arts and culture, and travel. He is a regular contributor to The New York Times, and has also written for HuffPost Queer Voices, The Advocate, Travel + Leisure, The Glass Magazine, and more. In 2014, he chronicled the start of his journey as a known sperm donor in "The Sperm Donor Diary," in a series of posts for The New York Times’ Motherlode Blog. He is based in New York City.


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