COVID-19 and Kids: 2020-2021 School Year

On June 29th, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced that the start date for the 2020-2021 school year will be delayed until August 17th for all in-person learning. Some schools and districts may decide to transition into online learning, let parents decide their preferred mode of learning, or delay reopening dates further. To find out information about your specific school district’s reopening plan, visit this link. 

Many parents, teachers, and school personnel have expressed concerns about reopening safely and how schools can implement, follow, and enforce CDC COVID-19 guidelines, such as physical distancing and wearing masks, in the classroom. Therefore, making the decision between in-person, online, or a hybrid version of learning for your child is a very difficult one. Here are some actions parents can take and things to consider while making this choice:

✓ HAVE CONVERSATIONS ABOUT COVID-19
These are uncertain times for everyone, so it is important to discuss COVID-19 in the home. Your child may have questions and discussing these topics may help to alleviate some stress, confusion, and help to prepare your child for what they should expect after returning to school.

Visit this link to view a toolkit for parents and teachers on how to communicate to children about COVID-19developed by researchers at the University of Arizona.
Having inclusive discussions as a family may make this decision easier. Parents should remember that children may experience peer pressure around choosing a specific learning mode.

✓ TALK ABOUT AND PRACTICE PRECAUTIONS AT HOME
It is important to regularly discuss the importance of your family and your child taking daily precautions to prevent COVID-19. Discussing the importance of proper hand hygiene, mask wearing, and physical distancing will increase the likelihood that your child will follow these guidelines while at school.

 It is also important to emphasize that your child should not share items with other children whenever possible, such as school supplies or food and beverages.

Practice wearing a cloth face covering, hand hygiene, and physical distancing around the home prior to the start of school. This will help your child be more prepared once they return to the classroom.

Practice scenarios at home to prepare your child for the possibility of peer pressure to not wear a mask or physically distance. Many of the lessons learned from other anti-substance use campaigns or anti-bullying campaigns can be useful. Here are a few you may consider using to help your child stand up to possible peer pressure

✓ CONSIDER WHICH MODE OF LEARNING BEST FITS YOUR CHILD AND FAMILY’S NEEDS
What your school is doing to implement CDC protocols and guidelines for in person learning should be factored into your decision. If you feel that your child’s school cannot meet the needs of your child and family, consider an online approach.

Some things to look for in the school’s planning. Tailored information on 1) how mask wearing will be handled, 2) density of hand sanitizer and frequency of hand-washing, 3) minimizing number of people gathered (i.e. no school assemblies, etc.), 4) distancing and spacing in the classroom, 5) ventilation and circulation of fresh air into the classrooms. The recent National Academy of Science Report provides some excellent summaries of prevention strategies that should be in place. 

You should also consider whether or not your child falls into a high risk group (with conditions such as genetic, nervous system, or metabolic conditions; congenital heart disease; or immunocompromise).
You should also consider the alternative. What type of support does your child have at home for online education, 

Finally, understand the learning choices for your child. This will help you determine what the differences are between online and in person, which may be minimal. As an example, the Tucson Unified School District plans to have schools open for in-person but they will be doing the same online curriculum with laptops in the classroom with some of the teachers working from home. 

✓ ENSURE YOUR CHILD HAS RECEIVED THEIR MMR AND FLU SHOT 
There is increasing evidence that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) shot can help prevent severe symptoms of COVID-19.

Flu season will likely overlap with the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore it is important that all members of the home receive the flu shot when it becomes available. Influenza is a significant threat to child health and high transmission of influenza could further overwhelm hospital systems. In addition, there is currently little known about how co-infections with influenza and SARS-CoV-2 virus may impact children.

✓ BEGIN PLANNING NOW FOR DOCTORS APPOINTMENTS AND TAKE YOUR CHILD TO REGULARLY SCHEDULED WELL CHECK-UPS
Keeping up with regular doctor appointments is especially important, just remember to wear a cloth face covering, practice hand hygiene, and maintain physical distancing while at the doctor’s office. 
It might be difficult to get an appointment, so it is best to schedule far in advance.

✓ BE SENSITIVE TO OTHER PARENTS AND FAMILIES CHOSEN SCHOOLING APPROACH
This is a difficult time for everyone, and parents are faced with a very challenging decision regarding their child’s learning. Therefore, it is important to be understanding of whatever method of learning parents and families choose for their children, even if this differs from your family’s choice.
For more guidance and resources for parents and students, visit this link.

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