Preparing for going back to school during the pandemic

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With the opening of schools on September 8, you may be worried about your kids’ safety with the virus threat still active. As early as now, you should start preparing to feel less pressure when school starts. Here’s where to start:

  1. Know the latest safety protocols

    Read the full plan from the Manitoba Government: COVID-19 Education Plan (as of September 2, 2020). There will also be back-to-school plans for each school division. Important points to focus on would be physical distancing guidelines, school transportation, managing shared spaces, and other health and safety policies.

    For more information:

  2. Weigh your options

    Consider the pros and cons. On one hand, going back to school can be beneficial for your child’s mental health as it will allow them to socialize and interact with their peers (even at a limited capacity at this time). It will also allow them to exercise, go back to healthy routines and if they are used to in-person techniques, learn better. But on the other hand, the risk of infection and virus spread are still there.

    Factor in your child’s state of health as well as the school’s safety protocols when you make your decision. Don’t forget to consider your home environment: Will your kids be coming home to seniors in your home? Do you have family members who are immunocompromised or have underlying conditions like respiratory diseases, heart disease or diabetes? If the risk is higher than the benefit, then explore other learning options for your child.

  3. Consult your doctor

    Now would be a good time to get a check up and get your child’s vaccinations up to date. Ask your family doctor about boosting your child’s immunity and general health. A medical consultation is essential especially if your child has health conditions that make them more vulnerable. If this is the case, discuss your doctor’s recommendations with school authorities to come up with a better set-up for your child.

  4. Prepare your child

    Sleeping and wake times may have been flexible at 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 (it’s still summer vacation after all!).

    Schedule a pep talk when back-to-school plans become clearer. Talk to them about how their classroom would look like, how they should interact with classmates and teachers, how gym and recess will be conducted. Answer any questions they may have and always be encouraging. It can ease their anxieties when they know what to expect.

    Helping kids return to school during COVID, Medical City Healthcare

    Emphasize safety protocols. Explain to them why hygiene and physical distancing are important. They should get used to wearing masks and hand washing often so practice at home to make it easier to get into the routine. 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. Dispel any misinformation that may have caused them to worry.

    How to get kids to wear a face mask, Coronavirus Q&A with Dr. Mike

    Since this term will be a test period, prepare them for changes. Protocols can shift depending on the state of public health. Help your child concentrate on things they can control like keeping themselves safe, treating others with kindness and doing their schoolwork.

  5. Equip them

    Your kids should have easy access to masks and sanitizing products like hand wash, soap and wipes. Hand washing should be done properly (at least 20 seconds) and often. 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.

    Teach them a routine upon coming home. Their bags, coats and other items should be stored in one place. Ask them to wash their hands before interacting with family members or pets.

  6. Continue to monitor conditions

    Stay in touch with teachers and monitor school conditions. Always check in with your child. Ask them about their classes and activities. Be open to any concerns they may have about school. They may complain about the drastic changes at school at the start, but they’ll get used to it. Listen and acknowledge their worries and concerns. Most importantly, don’t send your children to school if they are sick.

Article updated August 20, 2020.
Sources: Winnipeg School Division (WSD Return to school parent tips), Back to school during the pandemic: How to prepare your children, Ariel Anderson, Franciscan Health; and What parents should consider before sending children back to school, Ben Cousins, CTV News. Accessed July 20, 2020.

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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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