With many schools across the country offering in-person lessons, one of the biggest challenges you will face as a parent is protecting your child(ren) during the COVID-19 pandemic. You may be concerned because the pandemic is not over and newer variants of the virus (more contagious than the original) have been reported.
As you prepare for your children to return to their classrooms, there are steps you can take to keep them healthy. And thankfully, some guidelines can help children and teachers stay safe from COVID-19 at school.
Ways to keep your school-aged child as safe as possible
As you prepare to send your children back to school, reinforce standard COVID-19 precautions, such as wearing a face mask, maintaining physical distancing, and washing hands regularly with soap or sanitizer.
- wearing masks: The WHO and CDC recommend that everyone over the age of 2 should wear a mask that properly covers the nose and mouth when in school and while riding school buses where there may be a high risk of transmission of COVID-19. Consider these tips when sending your child to school wearing a face mask
- Send your child to school with multiple face masks. Give your child a clean mask and spare mask every day. Also provide a resealable bag to store the mask in when they can’t wear it, such as at lunch.
- Clearly label your child’s mask so it is not confused with another child’s mask.
- Remind your child to clean his/her hands before and after touching the mask.
- Instruct your child not to share or trade their masks with others.
- Physical distance: Teach your child to keep at least 1 meter away from others at school. For some people (such as staff and teachers) or in some environments (cafeteria or in the auditorium), a distance of six feet is much safer.
- Keeping it clean: Talk to your child about the importance of keeping themselves clean and washing hands well with soap and water or using hand sanitizer. Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or in the inside of their elbow is also equally important.
- Clean and disinfect: Whether your child attends school in person or from home through online classes, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces (such as faucets, doorknobs, laptops, keyboards, tablets, and phones) will help reduce the risk of infection.
- stay home if you are sick: Check your child every day for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Among which:
- A fever
- Nasal congestion/runny nose
- shortness of breath
- sore throat
- muscle strain
- little appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach ache
- Loss of smell or taste
- pink eyes
Know and understand the safety measures implemented in the school
It’s important to make sure your child’s school adheres to all recommendations made by government health officials – taking all precautions and taking all actions necessary to keep your child safe.
Schools should be proactive about all safety measures, but make sure you get answers to the following questions:
- What changes have been made to buses, cafeterias, classrooms and corridors to ensure social distancing?
- Are teachers and staff vaccinated?
- Have all students attending the school personally tested negative for COVID-19 infection?
- Will the school provide hand washing facilities and hand sanitizer readily available?
- Have all high-touch surfaces been disinfected? If so, how often are they cleaned?
- Are employees and students who feel ill asked to stay at home?
- What is the school’s plan if someone at school tests positive for COVID-19?
- What is being done about sports and other activities?
- Are additional measures being taken to improve ventilation in classrooms and auditoriums?
Schools should encourage physical distancing by taking the following measures:
- Reducing the number of children traveling in school buses
- Where possible, use outdoor areas for instruction, breaks and meals and create one-way traffic in school corridors
- Space student desks apart and have them all face the same direction
- The use of physical barriers such as plexiglass screens and partition walls to separate students and teachers
Schools should also encourage students and staff to follow hand hygiene practices, check that children wear masks, and cover their nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing.
Encourage your child to develop daily pre- and after-school routines that promote healthy habits, such as having a backup mask and hand sanitizer in the morning and washing their hands as soon as they get home.
Schools should take their students’ temperatures daily as part of COVID-19 symptom screening.
To limit the spread of COVID-19 infection and other infections, children should avoid school and other activities and stay home if they have signs of infection or a fever.
Conclusion Communities, families and schools must work together to ensure that students can safely stay physically together in the school where they need to be. Everyone eligible must receive the COVID-19 vaccination, including children (when made available). In addition, children should also receive the flu vaccine, including other routine childhood and adolescent vaccines to prevent infections. When everyone does their bit, the whole community wins.