When schools across the country shut down in March, no one expected that we would still need to take dramatic precautions in August and September to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But with the recent increases in cases now coinciding with the start of a new school year, districts are implementing plans to keep kids safe, especially if and when in-person schooling resumes.
While several districts are starting the year with all learning taking place online, others are doing their best to bring students back to the classroom as safely as possible. Some districts are opting to begin the year with a hybrid model. In this scenario, students return to in-person learning but for just a couple days each week, and there is an online component to complement the classroom work. This model is designed to help limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by reducing class sizes because only half of the student body attends school on a given day.
At Bremen Public Schools, we are reopening schools and offering in-person classes with a remote learning option for students and parents that choose it.
Regardless of when in-person classes resume and whether it is for two days or five, families must be prepared for school to look a lot different than usual. Most likely, classes will be smaller, desks will be further apart, and certain group activities will be curtailed. And it is important for parents to help prepare their children for what changes to expect.
Dr. Jim White, superintendent of Bremen Public Schools, reminds families of the guidelines Bremen is using, which are helpful for students in most districts.
First, “self-screening is crucial. Do not send your child to school with a fever.” That’s especially important because a fever is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19. Take your child’s temperature each day and be prepared to keep the child home if necessary. This is not the year to worry about those perfect attendance records!
Dr. White also stresses the importance of masks. “Wearing masks or face shields is necessary to keep schools from becoming centers of spread.” Getting used to masks before the start of the school year will be important, too. Kidshealth.org offers suggestions for helping younger children in particular get used to masks, such as making a game out of it. Have your child wear a mask while pretending to be a doctor and examining a favorite stuffed animal as a patient. For kids in later elementary, middle, or even high school, have them wear masks at home for increasing periods of time. One creative dad helped his kids get used to masks by tying them to screen time and having his kids wear one whenever they played on a tablet or other device.
After the abrupt end to last school year, the biggest challenge for students returning to school might be learning to maintain social distance, but parents should do their best to stress the need for physical distancing before school starts. Dr. White and his staff “know that students will be excited to see one another, but avoid physical contact, like hugs.”
High school and college students may have seen recent news stories about outbreaks and quarantining already happening in other districts, and parents can use these instances as reinforcement and gentle reminders to their own students. For children ages preschool through tweens, Mother.ly.com recommends using “simple language and concepts at least as a starting point . . . especially as higher levels of stress and anxiety can make it more difficult to process complicated ideas.”
Of course, the school year often brings outbreaks of a number of illnesses. While this year’s focus on COVID-19 brings additional concerns and precautions, certain basics always apply in keeping families and kids safe and healthy.
Whether it is something as out-of-the-ordinary as COVID-19 or as common as a cold, “good hygiene is always 100 percent necessary,” reminds Dr. White. “Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face. Don’t share school supplies, such as pens and pencils.”
While this year will be, without a doubt, filled with uncertainty and even anxiety for many families, following these guidelines or those issued by your own local district will help ensure that your child is as prepared as possible to resume classroom instruction and that you and your family are taking all the necessary precautions to keep your family as safe as possible.
Bremen Public Schools is dedicated to helping every child succeed, whether eLearning or in the classroom. Visit our website to learn more about enrolling your child in Bremen Public Schools, no matter where you live in Indiana.