HOW TO ENSURE A SAFE RETURN TO SCHOOL FOR YOUR CHILD
One year later...COVID-19 still has much of the world shutdown and has upended many of our norms. But now many public school will soon be resuming classes, many with a hybrid schedule, where children will be in person at least some of the time. For many parents, this is both a welcome move back into normalcy but a bit scary as well. Here are a few suggestions to help navigate this transition as smoothly as possible.
CONSIDER YOUR ALTERNATIVES
The first question to ask is...to go or not to go? Most schools are giving parents the option to send their children back to in-person learning or to continue with virtual learning. Some children have had great difficulty being stuck at home and their grades or learning have suffered, especially very young children, children with ADD/ADHD, and children with special needs. For many of these groups of children, returning to school may be crucial to their continued learning and development.
However, for some children, learning from home has allowed them to thrive by eliminating social distractions and fostering newfound focus and responsibility. So, if your child has been thriving while learning from home and grades have improved or remained high, you may consider keeping your child home for continued virtual learning.
PREPARE AND PRACTICE
If you have opted to send your child back to school, here are some tips for helping your child stay safe and adjust to the new norms of mask-wearing, diligent hygiene measures, and social distancing.
Discuss with your child
Discuss with your child what the new outside world and the new rules will look like during the COVID pandemic. Explain to them why there are new rules in place in as simple terms as possible. Let your child ask questions and be prepared to answer them or help your child find the answers to their questions.
In addition to your child's typical school supplies, plan to have enough masks for your child to wear a new, clean mask each day. Masks are like underwear and shouldn't be worn two days in a row or before being cleaned (if cloth). Medical masks are meant to be single-use and not used over and over again.
Send your child to school with a bottle of sanitizer (if age-appropriate) that they can keep with them at all times.
The CDC now recommends that a mask can be worn as young as age 2. So have your child practice wearing a mask and show them the correct way to wear a mask. A mask worn correctly should extend from the top of their nose to the bottom of their chin and fit snugly against the sides of the face without gaps. Have them practice wearing a mask at home for extended periods of time, first for 5 minutes, then 15, minutes, then 30 minutes, etc. to ensure they will get used to and will feel comfortable wearing a mask throughout the entire school day.
Teach your child to avoid touching their face frequently and show them how to properly adjust their mask, ideally touching the straps, rather than the main part of their mask. Advise them to sanitize their hands if they do have to touch their mask. The choice between a medical mask (pictured below) vs a cloth mask should really depend on what is most comfortable for your child. Whatever your child will feel most comfortable in and keep on throughout the school day is what you should have him/her wear.
Contraindications to Mask Wearing
There are no major contraindications to wearing a mask for most children over the age of 2. Asthma and other chronic respiratory illnesses alone are not contraindications to mask-wearing. Some children with special needs or sensory issues may not be able to wear a mask but this should be discussed with your child's pediatrician if you think your child may fit into one of these few categories.
Practice proper use of hand sanitizer and handwashing
Show your child how to use hand sanitizer properly and practice good handwashing technique. Teach your child that washing their hands with soap and water is always most ideal and that hand sanitizer is mainly for the times they do not have a sink available to wash their hands. Teach them that they should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds by singing the "Happy Birthday" song in their head (or out loud). Teach them to make sure they wash the fronts and backs of their hands as well as in between their fingers.
Teach them to use sanitizer by applying a dime-sized amount to the palm of their hand and then rubbing the sanitizer in using similar motions as if they were washing their hands. Advise them to continue rubbing until all of the sanitizer is rubbed in and has dried.
Teach them to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer:
before they leave the house
when they get home
before and after eating
after using the bathroom
after sneezing, coughing, or blowing their nose
after touching frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs and stair banisters
after touching their face
after touching someone else
TALK TO YOUR CHILD'S SCHOOL
Ask your child's school what safety precautions they are taking or if they have a written safety plan or procedures during COVID. If not addressed, here are some questions you might ask:
What will be your basic cleaning procedures to prevent the spread of COVID?
How frequently will cleaning occur?
Will everyone entering the school be screened for COVID symptoms or exposures?
How will this screening happen?
Will visitors be limited?
Will I be notified if there are positive COVID cases in my child's school?
How will I be notified?
What will be the next steps if there are positive COVID cases?
Will children and staff be required to wear masks?
Is my child's teacher(s) vaccinated?
Will social distancing be ensured? If so, how?
Will there be any mixing of classes?
How many students or children will be in my child's class?
Do not hesitate to ask questions. School administrators should be able and ready to answer these questions to help ensure the health and safety of everyone during the COVID pandemic.
TALK TO YOUR CHILD'S PEDIATRICIAN
Do not hesitate to call your child's pediatrician and ask questions, especially if your child is showing any concerning symptoms of COVID. Symptoms of coronavirus may include but are not limited to:
Runny nose or congestion
Vomiting or diarrhea
Fatigue or decreased activity level
Sore throat or decreased appetite
Loss of taste or smell
Your child's pediatrician will be able to give you guidance on getting your child evaluated, COVID testing, and quarantining or isolation measures to help keep your child and your family as healthy as possible.
FOLLOW THE RULES AND KEEP OTHERS SAFE
Now more than ever, if your child or anyone in your home is showing any signs of sickness, it’s important that you keep your child home. This will help to prevent the spread of potential illness to others.
The same goes for teachers and administrators. Anyone who is not feeling well should stay home. We all must look out not only for ourselves and our loved ones, but for everyone.
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