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Online guide can help with back-to-school planning

Parents, children and schools are preparing for a very different start to the school year. Regardless of whether a child is returning to school in person, virtually or both, this school year is sure to be filled with many challenges.

Parrents are busy and probably overwhelmed, as they prepare for the first days of school. There are questions about learning, childcare, working from home, lessons, face coverings, emotional health and so much more.

As a result of collaboration between Marshfield Children’s child development experts and parents, a guide was created to help parents be ready for the start of the school year.

It’s imortant to keep a child at home and follow exposure protocols for the school, if they have a temperature more than 100.4 ºF, a sore throat, cough, headache, body aches, diarrhea, vomiting or any of those other symptoms, or if they have been in close contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID-19.

The guide includes the following tip for getting ready to go back to in-person school:

• Make sure the child is up to date with all recommended vaccines, especially the annual Influenza (flu) vaccine, when it becomes available.

• Practice proper handwashing techniques at home, especially before and after eating, sneezing, coughing or adjusting a face cover.

• Discuss precautions to take at school, such as washing and sanitizing hands often, maintaining physical distance, wearing a face covering and avoiding sharing objects.

• Create a daily routine before and after school, such as packing hygiene supplies (face coverings, hand sanitizer, etc.), washing hands immediately when returning home in the afternoon and washing worn face coverings.

• Have multiple cloth face coverings labeled with the child’s name and wash them daily after use. Consider using a lanyard to reduce the chances the child will lose their face covering and send extras, placed in a paper bag. Explain to the child that sharing or swapping face coverings is not OK.

• Make sure face coverings fit snugly, but comfortably, completely cover nose and mouth, include multiple layers of fabric and allow for breathing without restriction. Practice putting on and taking off the face covering with the child, and make sure they understand how it should fit.

• Have the child practice wearing their face covering for extended periods of time, so they get used to it and are ready for long school days.

• Pack a water bottle labeled with the child’s name, to ensure your child remains hydrated during the day. Remind the child not to share their water bottle with others.

• Contact the school’s bus service, and make sure to understand any requirements or restrictions with the child using the school bus system. If the child rides the bus, they should sit separately and wear a face covering. If carpooling, every person in the car should wear a face covering for the entire trip.

In some cases, parents may choose to school their children at home or it may be necessary that the school is closed for a period of time. Therefore, parents should also prepare for successful at-home learning, using the following tips:

• Create a daily schedule with the child. Structure and routine are essential, for a feeling of safety and success in virtual learning.

• Create a system for the child to earn points or rewards as an incentive for completing tasks on the daily schedule.

• If there are no online physical activities planned by the school, identify a time for family-oriented physical activity such as a walk or bike ride. Make sure to take frequent breaks to refuel the body and brain.

• Healthy eating is critical to a child’s development. Keep set times for meals and snacks, and have healthy snacks available, such as whole fruits, vegetables, grains, and low fat or fat-free dairy.

• Ample and consistent sleep is needed for proper development, and readiness to learn. Elementary students need nine to 12 hours of sleep per day; middle and high school students need eight to 10 hours per day.

• Keep a calendar or other visual aid, to help stay consistent and track assignment deadlines.

• Create a learning space that is free of distractions and clutter. It should be quiet, well lit and comfortable, but appropriate for doing schoolwork.

• Technology barriers are expected to hinder learning at home, ask if the school can provide support or assistance to ensure access to learning.

• If a parent is not able to supervise the child at home every day, consider forming a group with families in the neighborhood or families whose children attend school with the child. Make arrangements to share supervision and help with homework, making sure all members of the group follow public health guide lines.

• Check if there are community-based organizations offering daytime supervision for working families (churches, libraries, etc.). Ask them what they are doing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and if they are following recommended guidelines.

• Identify opportunities for the child to connect with peers in a responsible way – either virtually or in person.

• If the child is not returning to in-person school, encourage them to participate in all live video instruction, if provided. Make an effort to connect with the child’s teacher at least weekly or more often, if needed.

• If the child participates in the school meal programs, ask the district about plans to make meals available while students are at home.

• If the child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), 504 Plan or receives support services such as physical, occupational or speech therapy, ask the district how these services will continue if students are learning at home.

Parents should also watch for signs that the child is struggling with stress and anxiety, and talk with them to undertsnad their emotional needs. Parent needs should also be addressed, as planning, finances, homework and health can be stressful for adults.

The full guide can be found at communityhealth.marshfi