A COVID-19 Back-to-School Guide . . . for Parents

This is the time of year when parents and kids usually start thinking about going back to school and making shopping lists for new clothes, backpacks and supplies. But this isn’t a usual school year, as school districts and parents struggle to decide what school will look like during COVID-19.
 
To help parents with some advice on how to return to in-person school, we turned to Dr. Virginia M. Bieluch, Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases for Hartford HealthCare’s Hospital of Central Connecticut and Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.
 
“I think it is important for parents to talk to their children about how school is going to look different this year with physical distancing, children and teachers wearing masks, and any plans their school has for changes from previous years,” Dr. Bieluch said.
 
Bieluch said an important resource for parents is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s back-to-school planning checklists for parents. The state of Connecticut has also issued guidelines for the safe operation of schools. Parents should also check their local school district’s website for local information and guidelines.
 
And, Dr. Bieluch said, make sure your child is up-to-date with all vaccinations to minimize the risk of your child getting sick with other infections. Unless contraindicated, make sure your child gets a flu shot next year to decrease chances of influenza, another respiratory illness with fever and cough.
 
What should kids bring to and from school?
Children should bring items such as water bottles (if allowed by the school), writing utensils, coloring utensils, and they should not share with other children. They should be able to open and close any containers they have without assistance.
 
How do you deal with the children’s school clothing/shoes?
These items should be washed frequently but no special treatment is necessary.
 
What are any extras students might need?
Find out if water and hand sanitizer will be provided to children. If not, the children will need to bring their own to school daily. An extra mask would be helpful, should the child’s mask get wet or soiled during school. A container, such as a small plastic bag, would be useful for mask storage when masks are removed such as when the child eats.
 
Make sure children know proper hand washing and hand sanitizing methods.
Hands should be washed often but especially before eating, after using the restroom or after blowing nose/sneezing/coughing. Hand washing is preferred but use hand sanitizer when washing is not possible. It’s smart to practice these activities well in advance of returning to school, especially with younger children.
 
Hand-washing (5 steps)
  1. Wet hands.
  2. Lather hands on both sides, include fingers and nails.
  3. Scrub 20 seconds (sing happy birthday twice).
  4. Rinse with water.
  5. Dry, using a clean towel or allow to air dry.
Hand sanitizer
  1. Apply gel to the palm of one hand.
  2. Rub hands together.
  3. Rub over all surfaces of hands and fingers until sanitizer is dry, about 20 seconds.
Wearing masks
Talk to your children about the importance of wearing a mask (to keep others healthy). Make mask wearing “no big deal” by putting a mask on a favorite stuffed animal, for example.
  • Practice how to put on and take off a mask without touching the front of the mask.
  • Find a mask that is comfortable for your child.
  • Personalize the mask if possible (favorite sports team, TV character, color).
  • Label mask with your child’s name to identify which mask belongs to your child.
  • Masks should be worn on the way to and from school when children ride the bus, car pool or walk in groups in which physical distancing is not possible.

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