It’s amazing how something as mundane as going to school can get scary and overwhelming during a pandemic.
While some children went to school during the pandemic, most learned remotely or in a hybrid model from some distant and some in person. As we go over the one-year limit, it becomes increasingly clear that children need to get back into their pre-pandemic school routines. It’s not just education that has suffered. Isolation at home is also bad for the mental and physical health of children.
The problem is, the pandemic is not over yet. While vaccines give us hope, children under the age of 16 cannot yet be vaccinated and access to vaccines for teachers is inconsistent. Understandably, many people would prefer not to make any changes just yet. Instead, they want to wait until the next school year until more adults are vaccinated and students may be eligible for vaccinations.
Waiting could do more damage
But so much has already been lost and many students and families are in crisis. Even for those not in crisis, for many students, stepping away from computer screens, back to teaching in person and seeing friends, let alone weeks of physical activity, could make a huge difference to many students.
Most school districts offer and continue to offer a long-distance option – and for children and families at high medical risk who have not yet been vaccinated, this may be the best option. But if no one in the family is at high risk and the number of parishes is low, school is likely safe. It’s also the better educational option.
Learn more about school district safety plans
Knowing what your school is up to is important
- Distancing: What is feasible What do classrooms and lunches look like?
- Masks: Wearing well-fitting masks will reduce the risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Staff and students should wear them – even after staff have received the vaccine.
- Wash your hands: Staff and students should be able to wash their hands regularly and hand sanitizer should be available.
- Screening for Symptoms and Exposure: Daily screening for symptoms of COVID-19 or exposure to someone with the disease should be done – and clear protocols for isolating and testing before going back to school.
- Contact tracking: If an employee or student is found to have COVID-19, there should be a clear system of identifying and notifying all possible contacts with a clear plan for quarantine and testing.
- Ventilation: The more air can circulate, the better. This is more practical in some buildings than in others.
- Cleaning: Common surfaces should be cleaned regularly.
- Meals: Students should be kept a safe distance while eating and all meals served should be prepackaged.
How can parents help children prepare for school?
Some students have not been in a school building for a year. Parents may need to make some preparations, such as:
- Practice Wearing Masks: It is not easy to wear one for hours and families may want to practice.
- Getting used to keeping your distance: If students have only been with family members or other people in their capsule, they may not be used to the idea of staying three to six feet apart. Families need to talk about it and may want to practice it too.
- Planning your hand washing: Make a habit of doing it at home regularly so that you can remember it more easily at school.
- Changing class schedules: After a year of rolling out of bed (or not) and starting school on the computer, it can be difficult to get up early, get dressed, and commute to school. Earlier bedtime may also be required. It can be helpful to adjust to these schedules a few days in advance.
- Have conversations about what it will be like to be back in class: while children studying online have had to follow the rules of a distant class, they may have forgotten the rules of a personal class. Talk about how it will be different.
- Meal Planning: Meals look different in schools these days, and packing lunch may be your best bet. Planning and shopping (for easy-to-prepare groceries, plus a lunch box and water bottle) can help.
Be prepared for some bumps in the transition and take time each day to talk to your child about their feelings and experiences. It could be an open-ended “high / low” question over dinner, or some other screen-free time where your child can get your full attention. Keep questions open and ask them as supportively as possible.
If you have any questions about your child’s special situation, ask your doctor.