Many parents may be wondering how their children can return to school safely during and after COVID-19. While it is clear that many children learn best when they are physically in school, returning to school needs to be taken seriously and meticulous steps must be taken to keep students and staff safe.
Schools go beyond just a learning space for children and adolescents. Along with learning the necessary math and reading skills, children receive exercise and learn emotional and social skills from going to school. A school is also a place where children have support, access to the internet, daily meals, and more. Some of these benefits that children receive in a school environment are not given in their homes.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that children and adolescents appear less likely to become infected with COVID-19 or spread it, it is still important for parents, teachers and health care professionals to take extra precautions, especially when it comes to returning to classes.
There are a variety of steps that schools should take when returning to classes. These steps include:
Hallways, playgrounds, and buses are all spaces in schools that become crowded and can potentially expose children to COVID-19. To help prevent the spread of the virus in crowded spaces, schools can:
Transitioning back to school after not having instruction time, occupational therapy, speech therapy, or mental health services can be very challenging for students with disabilities. Schools should always follow a child’s Individual Education Program before and after they return to school and continue providing services, even if they have to continue distance learning.
Distance learning can make some students feel pressured to catch up if they have not learned much through virtual classes. Schools should prepare to adjust their curriculum and make up for lost progress while balancing core subjects, physical education, and learning experiences.
More children may qualify for free or reduced lunch than before the pandemic. For this reason, schools should provide meal programs.
Students who are at high risk of getting COVID-19 may need to continue distance learning. Parents should communicate with their child’s teachers and pediatricians to stay as safe as possible.
Students should stay up to date with immunizations when returning to school. To reduce the spread of influenza this fall and winter, students and staff should get their flu shot.
Returning to school during COVID-19 may take some getting used to. Making sure that students have the proper resources, practicing social distancing, and having a safety plan can help protect students, staff, teachers, and families.