With the start of school fast approaching, the question that is likely on every parent’s mind is how on earth they are supposed to safely send their child to school this fall. The answer is far from cut and dry, unfortunately. It will change depending on where you live, your household and personal situation, and maybe even on a day to day basis. Even with all of the uncertainty, however, there are still some things you can do that may help.
Consider Your Area
It’s become increasingly clear as time goes on that COVID-19 has had a wide array of levels of impact on different areas of the country. Some small towns have barely been touched, whereas large cities like LA and New York have become familiar with how crippling it can be. How serious circumstances are changes rapidly as well. Carefully consider the area in which you live when making decisions about sending your child to school. Being well informed is the best way to start when making a decision, especially regarding matters as important as health and education.
Evaluate Your Child’s Risk
At least as important as the conditions of your area, it’s vital that you take into consideration your child’s personal risk level. Despite claims that children are immune and can’t pass on the virus, that just isn’t true, according to Stat News. And while it seems as though children are less susceptible, they are still at an increased risk if they have underlying issues. This means that if your child has a compromised immune system for any reason, heart problems, lung issues, etc, they are more at risk than their peers. Carefully consider your child’s medical history and factor that into your decision to send them back to school.
Think of Everyone in Your Household
It may not be enough to just think of your child’s medical history and health. Consider the risk to others living in your home as well – including you. Children can carry the virus and be asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms that are easily dismissed as being nothing more than a cold. Other members of your household might not be so fortunate. According to Contagion Live, COVID-19 spreads easily within a household, so consider the medical history and condition of those living with you, as well as your child’s and your own.
Make Sure the School Has a Clear Plan
Your child’s school should have had plans in place to protect children prior to the pandemic. These plans are supposed to help keep your child safe from harm or injury, whether intentional or not. According to HangSafe Hooks, over 90 percent of classroom injuries are unintentional. And considering the unintentional nature of coronavirus spread, we can probably expect that number to change, if you consider contracting the virus to be an injury. Regardless, your child’s school should have, or be developing, a plan to address the complications presented by COVID-19. It should address issues such as PPE use, social distancing, sick day policies, measures for children who are unable to attend due to illness or safety concerns, and what happens if an outbreak occurs. If you aren’t satisfied with the plan the school has in place, sending your child back to attend school in person may be worth reconsidering.
Teach Proper Handwashing
Handwashing can be difficult for children, especially younger ones. It’s so easy for them to skip washing their hands in favor of the next exciting thing to do. As tricky as it may be to get them to slow down and remember to wash, it’s really important to help prevent the spread of the virus and other illnesses. According to Mum Strife, fun activities may help your child understand the importance of handwashing. Repetition and regular reminders can help build the habit of taking time to wash. If your child is young, they’ll probably need your help to wash properly as well. This is a good time to help them learn how long they should wash their hands for (20 seconds) and how to scrub their hands thoroughly.
While children under the age of two should not wear masks, everyone older than that should, provided they don’t have respiratory issues that prohibit mask wearing. Masks help reduce virus spread, especially from asymptomatic carriers who are unlikely to quarantine due to not knowing they have the virus. Children are not exempt from that category. Some children struggle with wanting to wear a mask. They may find it uncomfortable, or scary, or just plain annoying. According to MD Anderson Cancer Center, parents can help their children feel better about wearing masks. One of the biggest things parents can do is to set the tone. If you are positive about wearing a mask and have an overall good attitude about it, your children are more likely to behave accordingly.
Keep Them Home When Sick
School is important. The education children gain from it, whether academic, social, or emotional, all help provide the groundwork for success in later life. That said, it’s important, especially during a pandemic, to not send your child to school if they are sick. Sending them to school puts their classmates, friends, and teachers at risk, potentially creating an enormous ripple effect. Unless the teacher is new, they have worked with students who were out sick before. That’s nothing new. The plans as they are now may need adjusting, but odds are your child’s teacher will thank you for keeping them home, and helping to protect everyone else.
Many parents got a taste of what homeschooling is like when large numbers of schools across the country closed down this spring. For some, continuing to homeschool their child this fall, or to virtually participate in schooling online may be the best course of action. If you are new to homeschooling, or don’t quite have a system figured out yet, don’t worry. According to Horizon Charter School, there are tips that can help you succeed in your homeschooling endeavors. Don’t be afraid to outsource and use various resources to help supplement your child’s learning. You might find that as you work to teach your child, you learn a thing or two yourself as well.
Sending your child to school during a pandemic can be nerve-racking. The first thought on a parent’s mind is often for their child’s safety. The decision to send your child to school is a deeply personal one, and one that you should give careful thought and consideration to. Consider your personal situation and circumstances, and then make the decision that is best for you, your child, and the rest of your family.
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