Over 500,000 children have tested positive for the Coronavirus in America since the dawn of the pandemic, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.
Nearly 50 million children are returning to public schools across the country this week. With covid-19 cases climbing, no vaccine, and still much unknown about this virus, tension and stakes are high.
In the absence of national leadership, school districts are turning to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who advocate health screening, physical distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, staying home if sick, and the cleaning and ventilation of buildings.
The hard truth is that implementing all of the recommendations is actually infeasible for school districts without strong partnerships with parents and staff. The concerns of staff are being raised and in some districts teachers and staff are at odds about whether and how to reopen.
But lost in the conversation is what parents can and should do to help safely reopening our schools for site-based instruction. Parents are working with districts as to when and how schools should open and operate. Their resounding voices have culminated into a new normal for the 2020 school year. These include;
Assembling a very different back to school kit. Parents need to have a back to school kit that includes five cloth masks that are acceptable to and are comfortable on their children; and they need to have a bottle of hand sanitizer that they keep at school. While states are not mandating masks, (and no masks on children under age 2), masks are recommended to prevent infected droplets from reaching others. School districts will not be able to keep up with supplying disposable masks to the nation’s 50 million students.
Knowing the symptoms of Covid-19 and screening their children at home. Temperature screenings, which many schools are trying to do, come at a high cost, but are not good detectors of covid-19. Parents already know to screen for many childhood ailments: flu, conjunctivitis, pin worms, lice, etc. They will be good screeners.
Isolating their children at home if they or anyone in the family has symptoms of covid-19, and to report this to the local health department and school.
Ensuring immunizations are up to date and provide the school a doctor’s determination, if their child is in a high-risk category for Covid-19.
Preparing children for a different school experience. They should talk to their children about the need to follow new rules in schools and on school buses for physical distancing, mask wearing, and personal hygiene, and why this is important They can read to children age-appropriate stories, and/or give older students materials to read on Covid-19 and public health before returning to school.
Fostering habits in their children about hand washing techniques, and teaching them to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water right before leaving for school, and as soon as they get home from school.
Volunteering with school lunch and transportation. Parents can pack lunches, snacks, and water from home and bring and pick up the child from school by private car, to reduce ridership on school buses or public transit.
Getting acquainted with other students and families from their child’s school. How well the families in each class cohort can stay within their cohort and communicate will affect the success of the school year. Families, and family friends, will have to pay particular attention to high school age students who may be most prone to let their guard down and be less-than-cautious in their social interactions.
Getting a Flu shot. The CDC is particularly concerned that families are protected from this year’s flu so families and schools are not doubly burdened with covid-19 and Influenza, and finally
Preparing to support their children in remote learning. If and when they’re quarantined, they should communicate with the school about their readiness or lack thereof for off-site learning. Access to Internet, technology, and the availability of adequate adult supervision for all children are bringing smaller, esoteric communities together in a new normal for the foreseeable future.