Back to School
Oklahoma Health highlights practices to keep kids safe during the pandemic
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Checking your child’s temperature regularly is important. Inform their doctor of any fevers or changes in behavior.
It is important for kids to see parents and caregivers engaging in good hygiene practices.
Children should be aware of COVID-19, but should have as little disruption to their daily routine as possible.
Families that can drop their children off at school should consider doing so in order to decrease the number of students per bus.
Children need to remain socially connected to the people around them for healthy development.
August’s arrival means Oklahoma students and teachers are preparing to return to the classroom. But, due to COVID-19, going back to school will look different this year.
On June 3, the State Department of Education published a set of guidelines as districts across the state prepare for the 2020-2021 school year called, ‘Return to Learn Oklahoma: A Framework for Reopening School.’ This framework is intended to serve as a guide for school districts across Oklahoma. Due to uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, all Oklahoma school districts are preparing for a potential transition to virtual learning.
Parents are justified in being concerned about the education their children will receive during these unprecedented times—and more so, about how to keep their children safe during the next academic year. Here are a few tips:
Monitor children for COVID-19 signs
Parents know their children best. Subtle changes in behavior may go unnoticed to strangers but not to most parents. It may be a child that looks more tired than usual at first, is feeling a bit achy. Others may develop the usual symptoms of fever, cough, and in some cases shortness of breath. Checking your child’s temperature regularly is important. Inform their doctor of any fevers or changes in behavior. Most importantly, they should not attend class or extracurricular activities if feeling sick.
Lead by example
Children often want to participate in activities they see parents doing. It is important for them to see parents and caregivers engaging in good hygiene practices. Hand washing, using hand sanitizer and wearing a mask are all key in slowing down the spread of the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.
Maintain a stable routine
Children should be aware of COVID-19, but should have as little disruption to their daily routine as possible. In some situations it may be unavoidable if a family member develops COVID-19 or succumbs to it. Every school district has counselors available to help children through traumatic events.
Talk to your children about COVID-19
It is important for children to understand what is taking place around them. They will likely see several other children and teachers wearing masks at school, using hand sanitizer and practicing proper hand hygiene. Every child will need a different approach to the subject. Elementary school children may not fully understand what is happening whereas high schoolers will likely be following the news. The key is to remove the fear surrounding COVID-19. It is important for children to feel they are supported and that caregivers have their best interest in mind. Most children do not develop life-threatening complications from COVID-19. It is important to communicate that information with them at their level.
Find alternative means of transportation, if possible
For a lot of parents, the school bus remains the only means of transportation. School districts are developing protocols in order to keep children safe while riding to and from school. Families that can drop their children off at school should consider doing so in order to decrease the number of students per bus.
Keep kids socially connected
We have used the term ‘social distancing’ quite often over the past few months. But what is really intended is physical distancing while staying socially connected. We must adapt to these unprecedented times by finding safe alternatives. Get togethers are important, but should be held observing the recommended precautions of staying 6 feet apart, masking whenever possible, practicing regular hand washing, and staying at home when feeling sick. Children need to remain socially connected to the people around them for healthy development.
All of our Oklahoma school districts are facing a challenging school year ahead. Most are having to come up with multiple plans to adapt to the pandemic—whether it be virtual, hybrid, or traditional. Parents and students should stay in regular communication with their respective districts in order to ensure a safe and productive academic year.
Dr. Gabriel Vidal is a board-certified internist who is currently pursuing further training in oncology at the Stephenson Cancer Center at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.