Starting School During COVID
As families across our region prepare for the beginning of a very unusual school year, many parents – and their children -- have questions about how to best keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy. Whether your child’s home school district begins the year with virtual learning in place, or is moving forward with in-person instruction, we have answers to some common questions and tips to help you plan and prepare for whatever the 2020-21 school year brings.
The most common questions we have received from parents revolve around masking at school.
- How do I get my child to wear a mask at school? The most effective way to ensure your child wears a mask properly while at school is to practice at home while they are doing things they enjoy. The longer you practice with them, the more they will come to understand the importance of keeping their mask on, and the easier it will be for them to wear it.
- Can my children get mask breaks at school? Yes, all districts are giving mask breaks to students when social distancing is possible.
Planning for In-Person Classes
As in-person instruction begins and your child attends school with other children, there are many steps families can take to help reduce the risk of spreading infectious respiratory illnesses this school year.
- Do a morning check-in with your child for signs of illness. If your child has a temperature of 100 degrees or higher, they should not go to school.
- Make sure your child does not have symptoms such as sore throat, cough, diarrhea, severe headache, vomiting or body aches.
- If your child has had close contact with a COVID-positive person or PUI, they should not go to school. The CDC’s guidance for exposure can be found here.
- Identify who at your school you should contact if your child gets sick, keep their name and contact information in a readily-accessible place.
- Be familiar with COVID-19 testing sites in your area (Alice Hyde’s site is located at 130 Park Street). In the event that your child develops symptoms, it is likely that a test will be required by your home district.
- Make sure your child is up-to-date with all recommended vaccines – including a flu vaccine. Because we do not yet know how COVID-19 and influenza may interact, it’s important that everyone get a flu vaccine unless your health care provider indicates otherwise.
- Review and practice proper hand-washing techniques with your child – especially if you have a younger child.
- Familiarize yourself with new school policies and procedures – such as how water will be made available to students during the day. Consider packing your child a water bottle.
- Develop some daily routines with your child before and after school, like washing hands and masks immediately upon returning home, and packing hand sanitizer before leaving the house.
- Talk to your child about precautions such as:
- Social distancing
- Washing hands
- Wearing a mask
- Avoiding sharing objects with other students
- Plan for transportation. If your child rides a bus, talk to them about the importance of wearing their mask and following bus rules for spaced seating. If carpooling, ensure everyone is wearing a mask and ensure your child is following any applicable rules on student cohorting.
Planning for Virtual or at-Home Learning
Virtual classes can be a challenge for both students and their parents. Here are some things to consider when preparing for a period of at-home instruction.
- Find out if instruction will be live video instruction by teachers or pre-recorded videos and accompanying assignments. This will be a big factor in how your child experiences virtual instruction.
- If your school is offering a hybrid model, be familiar with the district’s plan for how they will communicate with your family when a positive or potential case of COVID is identified.
- Do you have technological barriers at your home? As your school if they can provide support or assistance.
- If your child receives special services such as speech therapy, mental health or behavioral services, ask your district how those services will be maintained during virtual learning periods.
- If your child participates in school meal programs, identify how your district plans to make meals available to students who are learning virtually.
- Ask your school what steps they are taking to help students adjust to virtual learning. The district may have counseling and other support services available.