Returning to School
Though it’s exciting to return to certain aspects of life as it was before the spring of 2020, it’s natural for parents to be concerned about sending their kids back to school in a pandemic. Fears about student safety are valid, but there are ways to make the transition less nerve-wracking and provide peace of mind for the whole family.
In this post, we’ll examine how schools are adjusting to the new normal; what the CDC recommends for transitioning back to in-person classes; what to do if your child is exposed to Covid-19 and how to best keep them safe in the classroom.
Precautions Schools Are Taking to Keep Kids Safe
In Washington State, there are strict prevention measures in place to reduce the spread of the virus in educational institutions. These measures include:
- Mandatory face masks to be worn indoors by all students, faculty, staff, parents, volunteers and guests regardless of vaccination status.
- Vaccination of all eligible teachers and staff by Oct. 18, or they risk termination.
- Recommendation of vaccination for eligible students 12 and older.
- Physical distancing of at least three feet or more in the classroom.
- Improved ventilation inside schools, which includes more regular changing of filters; regular inspections and cleanings of equipment; increased filtration; outside air entry two hours prior to and two hours following room occupancy; reduction of the recirculation of air; and portable HEPA air cleaners for rooms with poorer air circulation.
- Increased hand washing and respiratory etiquette to be reinforced by teachers.
- Hand sanitizer with 60% or higher alcohol content to be provided where hand washing is unavailable.
- Cleaning and sanitizing of frequently touched surfaces each night and when any student is known to be sick in the room.
- Testing procedures in place in case students or teachers believe to have been exposed to the virus.
Recommendations by the CDC
To support students returning to the classroom, the CDC recommends that teachers develop virtual communications with parents and caregivers to share experiences about what the kids are encountering each day. This can help alleviate stress for both the parents and the children, and keep a dialog open in case issues arise.
It’s also recommended that teachers create virtual tours to show parents and caregivers the steps that are being taken to keep their kids safe while on campus. Fully vaccinated staff can also choose to hold in person meetings with families in open spaces (outside is best) if they feel safe doing so.
In addition, establishing a new routine during class will help smooth the transition back to a more normal school day for both students and teachers.
Parents and caregivers are encouraged to stay calm and reassuring throughout the transition; take care of themselves so that they are best equipped to help their children overcome any anxiety about being back in school; and connect with other parents with children in the same grade(s) so they can support one another and share information throughout the process.
In addition, if any behavioral problems persist or any anxiety lingers within the child, parents should seek help through a school counselor or medical professional.
What to Do in the Event of a Covid-19 Exposure
If your child has been exposed to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, you should monitor them closely for symptoms and isolate them from family members (especially those at higher risk of getting the virus due to age or being immunocompromised). If they are fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms, they don’t need to quarantine, but should be tested within 3 – 5 days of known exposure. If they test positive, they should follow local public health protocols before returning to school.
How to Keep Kids Safe While at School
To keep kids safe at school, be sure to provide them with a clean mask (and a spare in case they drop the one they’re wearing) every day; remind them to wash their hands frequently; and refrain from sharing food with friends, shaking hands and other interactions that could expose them to the virus. If they’re old enough, be sure to get them vaccinated.
Talk to a Medical Professional
If you have anxiety about sending your children back to school, you’re not alone. Get the most up-to-date information and advice about how to keep them safe from our team of doctors. Contact Western Washington Medical Group Family Practice to schedule an appointment. Or, for more general inquiries, use the form on this page.