Back to school and COVID-19: Tips to keep your family safe
Posted By Darrigo & Diaz
How to prepare your family for the reopening of Tampa Bay schools
Get ready to pack your back-to-school pencils, binders and … hand sanitizer?
For the last six months (and counting), parents have been navigating guidelines and safety measures designed to limit the spread of COVID-19. Now, with Tampa Bay schools preparing to start the 2020 school year, families have new questions and concerns on how to keep kids safe and healthy.
Whether your child is attending school in-person, online, or a hybrid of the two, there are steps you can take to help keep your family safe.
Here are the top recommendations from doctors and health experts:
If your child is attending school in-person:
- Don’t send kids to school sick – Check your child for COVID-19 symptoms every day before school. Signs include fever, cough, runny nose, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, and body aches. Some Tampa Bay schools are recommending daily temperature checks. If your child displays any signs of COVID-19 or becomes ill, keep them home. Contact your doctor if you have questions or concerns.
- Pack lunches in disposable brown bags – Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a family physician and professor at West Virginia University School of Medicine, recommends using disposable brown paper bags instead or reusable lunchboxes. “It’s more sanitary to put it in your own brown bag to just throw away,” he says.
- Pack hand sanitizer – According to board certified pediatrician Dr. Candice W. Jones, each child should have his or her own bottle of hand sanitizer. This will help reduce the transmission of germs in the classroom. Practice using hand sanitizer with your child before school starts.
- Send multiple masks – In case your child’s mask breaks or gets dirty, it is a good idea to send them to school with a spare. Also, have your child practice wearing a mask for longer time periods before school starts. This will help them build up mask-wearing endurance.
- Devise a back-from-school protocol – Help keep your home clean by “disinfecting” your child as soon as they get home from school. Doctors suggest having your child wash his or her hands, remove their clothes and shoes, and taking a bath or shower.
- Be kind – During this time, it’s important to be kind to ourselves and to each other. This school year is starting in the midst of a pandemic and is not something any of us have done before. It may be messy, it may be hard, and all of us—kids, caregivers, educators, professionals—may need extra support and reassurance.
If your child is attending school online:
- Minimize distractions – Help your child stay focused by removing distractions and limiting the use of devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Set up a quiet workspace for your child that is clutter-free and comfortable.
- Incorporate “brain breaks” – While most Tampa Bay schools will have virtual PE classes, these classes may not be offered on a daily basis. Sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen for extended periods can be taxing on your child. Dr. Linda Carling, an associate research scientist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education Center for Technology in Education, recommends incorporating “brain breaks” – quick 5 to 10 minute breaks to move around.
- Be cyber smart – With your child spending more time online, it is important to review internet safety. Ask them about their online activity, such as what sites they visit and who they talk to. Depending on your child’s age, consider setting parental controls and monitoring their online and social media activity.
- Give positive feedback – Kids who are attending school online may miss receiving reinforcement and reassurance from teachers and counselors. Build a reward system to keep them motivated. For example, after they complete a task, acknowledge their hard work.
Have more questions?
The end of summer often brings the back-to-school jitters, but this year, there will undoubtedly be an extra layer of concern due to COVID-19. Reach out to a school counselor or principal if you have questions or concerns. Schedule an appointment with your family doctor to discuss the best options for your family.
This Tampa Bay school year will look different, but we’re all in this together.
Darrigo & Diaz is here for you every step of the way
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