Heading back to school during the coronavirus: Here is how to prep your kids to return

Families are usually deep into purchasing school supplies, backpacks and new outfits two weeks before starting school. With an unconventional school year on the horizon, return to school preparations look different this year. 

Vermont public schools are set to welcome students back Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day. The date was pushed back a couple weeks to allow districts more time to prepare to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to a later start, school supply lists also reflect this year’s varying needs.

Forego back to school parties

It may be tempting to have to have a large gathering as a last hurrah to summer before starting school, but the Vermont Agency of Education recommends limiting exposure the two weeks before school starts.

“Recognizing that community (not school) transmission will be the primary mode of infection, and due to the 14-day incubation of SARS-CoV-2, students, families and staff should make extra effort to avoid large gatherings and other situations that put them at greater risk for SARS-CoV-2 exposure in the weeks leading up to school opening,” The state’s A Strong and Healthy Start guidelines state. “This will help to create the safest environment possible for return to school.”

Practice with masks

When children are in the school building they could be wearing a mask for six hours. School administrators say they prefer students practice wearing a mask at home to become accustomed to wearing them for long periods of time. 

It is important to make sure masks are properly fitted, covering nose and mouth without drooping, especially for smaller faces.

Some schools will be providing a reusable mask to students. However, masks are recommended to be changed or washed after one day of use, or if soiled. Families may consider having a week’s worth of reusable masks for each child to save on laundering time.

School supplies could include thermometer

More than the No. 2 pencils and pack of multi-colored markers, school supplies could include personal protective equipment.

In addition to masks, Williston schools are requesting students have a thermometer and a water bottle because drinking fountains will not be operational. 

Williston schools' suggested school supplies include a thermometer, masks and a water bottle. The announcement was in a newsletter from Superintendent, Elaine Pinckney from Aug. 13. School starts Sept. 8, 2020 and will reopen with changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sharing pens, markers, crayons, highlighters are discouraged, so it is likely students will have their own set of supplies.

Prepare home for remote learning

Families may have learned in the spring about how their child best functions during remote learning. Take those lessons and incorporate them into making a space conducive to learning at home before the school year starts. 

And, as with typical school years, it is best to start getting students back into the habit of having a morning routine that follows their school schedule. Families may consider adjusting bed times and having students awake at a consistent time each morning in preparation for that first day.

Routine is important

Children thrive with routine. A hybrid schedule may make it a little more difficult to find a routine, but that means it is important to keep as much consistency in other areas. 

Maintaining start of school customs also helps children feel the start of school is special.

Contact April Barton at abarton@freepressmedia.com or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.

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