By now, you probably know whether or not your school district has decided on an in-person or virtual school for your child or teen this semester. And by now, you probably have a number of thoughts and feelings about that. In a couple of weeks, I will address parents of students who will be learning virtually this semester, but today, I want to address parents of children who will be returning to the classroom in person.
As a parent, you may feel good about this. You know your child needs to return a regular rhythm and so do you. Or, you may feel deeply concerned. You’re not sure if your child will be safe at school, and you’re worried about the teachers and staff who are at higher risk for illness.
First let me say, any response to in-person school is valid. It’s normal to be experiencing a mix of emotions right now.
This is an unprecedented time not only for you but for government and healthcare officials. We are all trying to do the best we can with the information we have.
That said, you can take some precautions to ensure your child, and you and your family, stay safe as your child returns to school.
Do you know what precautions your child’s school is taking to protect students and staff? If you don’t, contact your child’s teacher and make sure her school has precautions in place.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has several recommendations for schools on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some of these recommendations include:
- Physical distancing: Having children stay six feet apart from each other when not in the classroom and placing desks three feet apart.
- Mask requirements: All adults should wear masks or face coverings at all times, as adults are more susceptible to contract and spread the illness.
- Classroom changes: Teachers are also encouraged to change classrooms, rather than having students change classrooms for each class. Students should also be able to eat in their classrooms at their desks rather than in a cafeteria.
The AAP also recommends frequent temperature checks of students when a student is exhibiting symptoms, consistent cleaning, and disinfecting of classrooms and common areas.
You can also ask your child’s school what its plan is should a child test positive for COVID. Many schools have protocols in place to ensure immediate isolation of any student who is sick as well as whatever students he or she has been in close contact with.
Abide by mask protocol.
Adults at schools should wear masks or face coverings at all times. The AAP also suggests preschool and elementary age children should wear masks if they are able to do so without touching their faces too often. Secondary age children should wear masks at school whenever possible.
Because COVID-19 is mainly spread through respiratory droplets, keeping the nose and mouth covered can largely reduce the risk of spread, and contracting the illness.
Have a Plan B.
I always tell parents, don’t parent out of fear. Parent out of strength. If you are afraid of sending your child back to school, having a Plan B in place could help.
What should you do if your child’s school has a COVID-19 case?
Most schools have protocols in place for this, but you can decide what feel best for you and your family. Whether that be allowing your child to continue to attend if the school remains open, pulling your child out for a period of time, or switching to virtual learning for the semester if that’s an option. Decide what would feel best and write that down as your Plan B.
You can also have a Plan B should you or your child begin to feel unsafe at any time in the semester. If having your child at school is causing more anxiety than having him home, decide what you will do instead: hire a tutor, switch to virtual learning if that’s available at your school, start a homeschool program, or even take a few weeks off.
These are uncertain times. Having plans in place for worst-case scenarios can provide peace of mind as you navigate this unknown territory. You’ll have a starting point to problem solve any issue that may come up during the school year.
Remember, I will address those of you whose children will not be returning to in-person school in a couple of weeks, so make sure you stay tuned for that post.
For those parents whose children are returning to in-person school, I recommend following the AAP’s guidelines, check for regular updates at healthychildren.org (the APP’s parenting website), and have alternate plans in place that will not only keep you and your family healthy but will allow you to continue to parent with confidence and strength during this time.