Back-to-school preparations 2021: Steps to ensure your kid’s safety

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School starts on September 7. It’s understandable if you have concerns about your kids’ health and safety with the virus threat still active. Here are few suggested steps to prepare yourself and your kids before school opening:

  1. Know the school’s health and safety protocols

    Check your school division’s back-to-school plan. Important points to focus on would be staff immunization; ventilation and sanitation systems; guidelines on mask use; school transportation; managing shared spaces; and other health and safety policies:

    If your questions are not answered by information online, don’t hesitate to call the school for more details.

    For more information:

  2. Consult your doctor

    Do this especially if your child or you (or anybody living with you) has a health condition that could make them or you more vulnerable. Talk about measures you can take to protect your child and family from getting sick. Get your child vaccinated if they’re eligible for the vaccine. Discuss your doctor’s recommendations with school authorities to come up with a better set-up that the school could accommodate. If eligible, virtual learning could be an option, or they could also be enrolled in the provincial virtual school offered by the Manitoba Remote Learning Support Centre.

  3. Prepare your child

    Sleeping and wake times may have been flexible in your household the past five months. Start as early as now to set more regular or consistent hours at home. Do this gradually to help them adjust to the routine.

    Talk to your child about what to expect on their first day – Will they take the school bus? What will their class schedule be like? What time will their recess or breaks be? Answer any questions they may have and always be encouraging. It can ease their anxieties when they know what to expect.

  4. Stay up-to-date

    Be on the look out for changes in public health guidelines. Stay in touch with teachers and monitor school conditions. In these times, it would be good to be prepared for any possibility of having remote schooling if needed. Have learning materials and equipment on hand, as well child care ready if possible.

    Always check in with your child. Ask them about their classes and activities. Be open to any concerns they may have about school. Listen and acknowledge their worries and concerns. Most importantly, don’t send your children to school if they are sick.

  5. Emphasize safety protocols

    By now, your child is probably used to wearing masks and hand washing often. This is good. Talk to them about the proper way of using common facilities like the washroom, gym, playground equipment and shared equipment like computer keyboards or art supplies. Remember to balance your warnings with reassurances. They should know that you and their teachers will be there to support them. Ask if they have concerns and answer them by sharing age-appropriate facts. Counter any misinformation that may cause anxiety.

  6. Equip them

    Ask the school in advance about supplies and other requirements. You may have to purchase these from the school or from a store. Aside from school supplies, your kids should also have easy access to masks and sanitizing products like hand wash, soap and wipes.

    Make plans for their lunch/snacks. Lunch boxes or packaged food should be easy to open so they won’t need help from others to unwrap or cut their food. Remind them not to share food, drinks or utensils with others.

    If you live with someone who is immunocompromised, teach your child a sanitation routine upon coming home. For example, they should wash their hands before interacting with family members or pets, or to tell you right away if they have a cold or feel sick.

Sources: Masks not required when Manitoba K-12 students return to class full-time in September, Caitlyn Gowriluk, CBC News; Restoring safe schools (COVID-19 Education Plan);and Back-to-school tips for newcomers to Canada, Arrive. Accessed August 18, 2021.

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Community Resources

Know your school division: Manitoba School Division and Districts or use Find a School if you’re in Winnipeg.

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