School reopening? What parents need to know and can do
It’s amazing how scary and overwhelming something as ordinary as going to school can become during a pandemic.
While some children have attended school throughout the pandemic, most have learned at a distance, or in a hybrid model of some distant and others in person. As we cross the one-year mark, it has become increasingly clear that children need to resume their pre-pandemic school routines. It is not only education that has suffered; being isolated at home is also bad for children’s mental and physical health.
The problem is, the pandemic is not over yet. While vaccines give us hope, children under 16 cannot yet be vaccinated and access to vaccines for teachers is uneven. Naturally, many people would prefer not to make any changes just yet. Instead, they would like to wait until the next school year, when more adults will be vaccinated and high school students may be eligible for vaccines.
Waiting could hurt more
But so much has already been lost and many students and families are in crisis. Even for those not in crisis, stepping away from computer screens, returning to in-person teaching, and seeing friends, not to mention physical activity – could make a big difference for many students, even if only for a few. weeks.
Most school districts offer and will continue to offer a remote option – and for children and families at high medical risk who are not yet vaccinated, this may be the best option. But if there is no one at high risk in the family, and the number in the community is low, the school is probably safe. It is also the best educational option.
Learn about school district safety plans
It is important to know what your school projects are for
- Distancing: What is doable? What will classrooms and dining rooms look like?
- Masks: Wearing properly fitted masks reduces the risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Staff and students should wear them, even if staff have received the vaccine.
- Hand washing: There should be regular opportunities for staff and students to wash their hands, and hand sanitizer should be available.
- Screening for symptoms and exposure: There should be daily screening for any symptoms of COVID-19 or any exposure to someone with the disease – and clear isolation and testing protocols before returning to school.
- Contact follow-up: If a staff member or student has COVID-19, there should be a clear system to identify and notify all possible contacts, with a clear plan for quarantine and testing.
- Ventilation: The more air can circulate, the better. This is more feasible in some buildings than in others.
- Cleaning: Common surfaces should be cleaned regularly.
- Meal: Students should be securely spaced when eating and all meals served should be prepackaged.
How can parents help children prepare to go back to school?
Some students have not been to a school building for a year. Parents may need to do some preparation, such as
- Practice wearing masks: It’s not easy to wear one for hours and families may want to practice.
- Get used to keeping the distance: If students have only been with family members or other people in their group, they may not be used to the idea of being three to six feet apart. Families will need to talk about it and may want to practice this as well.
- Planning for handwashing: Make it a habit to do it regularly at home to make it easier to remember at school.
- Schedule Change: After a year of getting out of bed (or not) and starting school on a computer, it can be difficult to get up earlier, get dressed, and get to school. It may also require an earlier bedtime. It might be helpful to adjust to these times a few days in advance.
- Have conversations about what it will be like to be in class again: While kids learning online had to follow the rules of a distance course, they may have forgotten the rules of an in-person course . Talk about how it will be different.
- Meal Planning: Meals are different in schools these days, and preparing a lunch may be the best choice. Planning and shopping (for easy-to-prepare foods, a lunch box, and a bottle of water) can help.
Prepare for some of the challenges of the transition and set aside time each day to talk to your child about their feelings and experiences. It could be an open-ended “high / low” question at dinner, or any other screenless time where your child can have your full attention. Keep the questions open and ask them in the most encouraging way possible.
If you have any questions about your child’s particular situation, talk to your doctor.
The post-school reopening? What Parents Should Know and Can Do first appeared on the Harvard Health Blog.
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