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Most schools in the U.S. closed from March through the end of the school year to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. With back-to-school time around the corner, your children are likely excited about seeing their classmates and teachers again.
But when schools reopen, many things will be different. Protective measures will be in place to keep everyone safe, as advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Uncertainty can cause anxiety that affects your family’s ability to start the school year strong. Though each school may approach a reopening plan a bit differently, here are five potential changes to prepare for as your child returns to the classroom.
Increased Safety Measures to Protect Your Child’s Health at School
There will be a range of safety measures in place to protect students, teachers and school staff. For example, schools may implement temperature checks before children board buses or enter buildings and require them to wear face masks. Make sure your child understands the importance of wearing a mask and take time to practice getting comfortable with it at home.
Teachers will be reinforcing healthy hygiene habits, such as frequent and proper hand-washing. Schools may also provide hand sanitizer dispensers at school entrances or in each classroom.
When students and teachers return, schools must intensify cleaning and disinfection procedures in keeping with the Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, making sure to keep frequently touched surfaces safe.
Physical Distancing Measures for All School Activities
Helping students practice physical distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from each other is definitely a challenge, but schools are evaluating their options. Morning entrance and end-of-day dismissal may happen on a staggered basis and take longer. Parents may not be permitted to walk their children into school in the mornings, so discuss a drop-off plan that works for your family.
Fewer children may be permitted outside at one time for recess and gym teachers will likely encourage games that don’t involve physical contact. It might feel strange or disappointing to your child. Encourage them that there are still ways to have fun and play with friends while also helping keep them all safe.
Assemblies, sports and field trips may also be postponed until safety measures are no longer required in your community.
Fewer Children Per Class or Staggered Schedules
Since it’s impossible to make classroom spaces bigger, schools will have to limit the number of children in each room to meet the guidelines for physical distancing. That could mean reducing the number of children who can be in a classroom at the same time to about 12.
To meet that objective, schools may implement a staggered schedule. For example, half the class might go to school in the mornings and the other half in the afternoons.
Another option is a two-week attendance pattern, where one group of children goes to school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the other group goes on Tuesday and Thursday. The pattern reverses for both groups the following week.
Continued Distance or Virtual Learning
Ideally, your child could return to school and learn from teachers full-time, safely, in person. But many areas are starting the school year off completely virtual, or offering a hybrid schedule option.
With both learning methods in place, your child may need additional support to keep track of an increased number of moving parts and expectations. Stay in touch with teachers to find out how your child can access lessons, homework assignments and remedial resources if they need extra help.
Schools are also preparing for potential disease outbreaks in local communities. If an infected person has been at school, the school may need to close for a few days to implement special procedures as outlined by the CDC. Schools will work with local health authorities to determine if they need to extend the dismissal for a longer period.
Modified School Calendars
It can be hard to understand what your child’s actual progress was last year if your school gave pass-fail marks instead of grades and canceled final exams for older students. You may be worried about your child falling behind academically after missing so much in-person school.
School districts are aware of this concern and are considering a variety of options to help ensure children get back on track. For example, they may start the school year earlier, extend the school calendar into next summer or both.
We’re Here to Help
Daily life and school routines changed dramatically for your children last year. Going back into school with new safety measures in place may be upsetting for younger and older children alike. Try to remind them that this unique situation won’t be forever.
Watch for common signs of stress and learn more about how to help your children manage stress, anxiety and sadness. If your child shows strong emotions or behaviors as they go back to school, schedule a virtual visit with our behavioral health team. Nothing matters more to us than you and your family.
For all the latest information to help keep you and your family healthy, visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub.