Students across the country are gearing up for a new school year. But instead of just the normal back-to-school excitement, parents and teachers have a whole new set of concerns and decisions to make brought on by the continued COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether your family will be returning to school in-person or via online learning – or a hybrid of the two – there are active steps you can take to help create a safe learning environment.
Staying safe in a traditional classroom setting
If your family will be returning to in-person schooling, start by reviewing your school’s COVID-19 response plan. Because areas of the country have been affected differently, these important decisions will be made on the local level.
Review the plan with your child to help prepare them for safety changes. Schools may be taking steps to limit interaction, such as removing lockers, dividing students into cohorts and creating one-way traffic hallways. There may also be physical barriers, like plexiglass shields or other partitions, to create separation between students and teachers. Prep your child for what to expect, so everyone can feel safe and informed for the new school year.
Families can also take steps of their own to reduce exposure or spreading of the virus.
Don’t send your child to school sick. Develop a daily routine to quickly check your child for a fever and monitor for signs of illness (e.g. cough, fatigue, headache, etc.).
Pack hand sanitizer in your child’s backpack. Practice using hand sanitizer with your child before sending them to school. Give them scenarios for when they should use hand sanitizer because they don’t have access to soap and water.
Stock up on masks. Make sure your child has spare masks available during the school day in case their mask gets dirty, breaks or is lost.
Develop a home safety plan. Set up a routine to disinfect backpacks, clothing, shoes and other items when children return home from school. Have children wash their hands immediately.
Tips for staying safe with distance learning
For those that will be using online learning or other forms of homeschooling, there may be more opportunities to leave the home throughout the day. For example, you may have a planned field trip to enhance what your child is learning or may need to run a few errands as a family.
Because of this, it’s important you re-enforce the importance of following COVID precautions, like following social distancing guidelines, wearing a mask and frequently washing your hands.
Here are some additional tips to help create a safe learning space at home:
Clean and disinfect frequently. Build this into your regular routine, and get your children involved in the process. Focus on high-traffic areas, like doorknobs, faucets and tablets.
Ensure adults who are working outside the home are following COVID precautions. Create a home-from-work disinfecting routine that may include showering and placing clothing or other items in a designated area to be disinfected each day.
Monitor your family’s mental health. Make mental health a priority. These are unprecedented times, and everyone is doing the best they can. It’s easy to feel isolated and alone, but there are many resources that can help children and adults during COVID-19.
For more back to school safety tips, check out EMS Safety’s blog about safely traveling to and from school.