Parenting

Back to School (COVID Safe)

Kids Are Going Back to School. How Do We Keep Them Safe?

As the Delta variant rages across the world and vaccination rates remain low in many parts, worried parents have two pressing questions: Should I send my child back to school? Will they be safe in school during a pandemic?

Parents have become frustrated at the lack of advice for families, particularly those with children under 12 years old, who are not yet eligible for a COVID vaccine. On social media and at school-board meetings, parents say they face an impossible choice: send kids to school and risk a COVID-19 infection, or keep kids home and jeopardize their mental health and educational development.

Children wearing face mask in school. Picture found on unabashedkids.com "back to school (covid safe)" blog
Photo by Muneer ahmed ok on Unsplash

While public health officials generally offer reassurance about the safety of children headed back to school, the advice varies depending on the conditions in your state. Please pay attention to your state or countries COVID guidelines.

Many parents are choosing to homeschool their children, even if the school district will no longer offer virtual classes. These parents must make a plan to not break any adolescent education laws and to provide their children with the best academic experience at home.

What can parents do to lower the risk of their child contracting COVID-19?

Getting a COVID vaccine may lower the risk of a child being infected at home and protect family members if a child brings the virus home from school. In addition, everyone in the family should consider getting flu shots this fall.

Reduce the risk for your whole family by avoiding crowds. Paying attention to the community transmission rates, vaccination rates, teaching children to wash their hands, and wearing masks in risky settings are great preventative measures.

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What should parents do if their child’s school does not require masks?

Children in school. Picture found on unabashedkids.com "back to school (covid safe)" blog
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
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Even in schools with mask mandates, compliance by children is never 100 percent. And masks are only one of many possible precautions schools can take. Parents in school districts without mask mandates should learn what other steps are being taken, including regular testing, social distancing, and air ventilation measures. Parents can ask their own children to wear masks in schools, but keep in mind masking is far less effective if most kids aren’t doing it.

If you chose to send your kids with a face mask, it is important to send them with one that fits their face. Purchase Children’s Mask on Amazon.

"The school I teach at opened in-person September 2020 at about half capacity. A plan was made to clean the school several times during the day, with help of janitorial and teaching staff. The desk in the classroom and cafeteria were separated 3 to 6 feet apart. Distancing depended on the size of the room and the amount of students who would need to fit in the class.  UV-c lights were used in each classroom afterschool. The HVAC units were updated. The school district believed we were ready. When school started, children were in pods for most of the day but they ate lunch in the cafeteria, had recess, and specials with children from other grades and pods. School ran on a half-day schedule but a large percentage of the student body stayed full day for a free aftercare program that was offered for working parents. We had several outbreaks throughout the 2020-21 school year. Many teachers began to believe the the school administration did not take the health of staff and students seriously. Parents in the community had to go back to work, so school was open. Several teachers were extremely sick from COVID in February 2021. From October to May the several schools in the district had to close for 2 week quarantines due to staff exposure. The school administration made a great effort to get staff vaccinated. A large percentage of staff members and their families were able to be fully vaccinated by May 2021. My fellow teachers and I, hope that the plan for the next school year will be followed much more effectively. We truly love the children and want them in school and learning, but not at the risk of their health or our own."

- Kindergarten Teacher, USA 
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In some pre-kindergarten special education or autism classroom mask wearing is not required due to the children’s ability to understand, behavior, or other needs of the child. If you have a child in a classroom wear mask are not required or are required but not worn by students, it is up-to you to contact school officials to address the problem. If you are uncomfortable with children in a classroom not wearing mask: ask for your child to change classrooms due to safety or ask for a virtual class.

If you have a young child who is intolerant to wearing a mask, please make the school administration and teacher aware of this. Practice mask wearing at home for short periods of time. Start with having your child touch the mask. Point out that others are wearing mask. Have the child wear the mask for 15 seconds at a time, then 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minute, 5 minutes, 5 minutes in different locations, 10 minutes in different locations, and 30 minutes in different locations. This method takes some time but it will help young children who are mask intolerant build up the stamina to wear a mask in school.

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Can your kids visit grandma and grandpa during the school year?

We must take into consideration the health risk to elderly community members. Are they vaccinated? Are the children going to school in an area with high COVID-19 transmission rates? Are the grandparents in good health? The answer to whether a child visits their grandparents during the school year depends on your answers to this question. 

When everyone is vaccinated, families may feel more comfortable spending time together. If younger children are unvaccinated in a fully-vaccinated family group, some families might want to take additional precautions, like spending time together outdoors, wearing masks indoors, or getting tested before family gatherings to confirm that no one in the family is infectious.

Home testing is also an option, although it can get costly at about $15 per test. Regular testing of school-aged children, at bi-weekly intervals or before a family visit, can give parents peace of mind when families spend time with people outside their households.

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Is in-person instruction safe for kids with medical needs?

Parents of children at very high risk for complications from Covid-19, including children with sickle cell anemia or those recovering from cancer, may need to do additional research before sending children back to school in fall 2021. The decision should be made based on advice from the child’s pediatrician and specialists, factoring in local conditions and the precautions being taken at the school.

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