Young masked male student in school classroom.

Parents: What you should know about COVID-19 safety in schools

Parents and teachers alike want to be sure that children are as safe as possible while they are in the classroom – which has been particularly challenging during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The goal of having children attend school in person is that we know it is how they learn best. School is essential. However, many things need to be taken into consideration to have kids back in the classroom,” said Terry Ho, MD, an OSF HealthCare pediatrician.

Schools, teachers and administrators have worked tirelessly to make schools as safe as possible for children. Many schools have consulted with physicians and public health experts like Dr. Ho, who personally helped several Catholic schools in Central Illinois create their plans for re-opening.

School safety

Most schools are using measures like screening for illness, requiring masks and allowing for physical distancing to minimize the risk to teachers and students. They’ve had to create new policies and purchase and install protective equipment.

“They have also realized that they have to be flexible. School during a pandemic cannot be viewed with a one-size-fits-all approach. Schools have developed virtual options for those for whom it may not be safe to be back in the classroom,” Dr. Ho said.

“With all these measures in place, there are still things that we can do to ensure our kids stay healthy through the school year. “

Steps to take at home

1. Practice hand hygiene.

Hand washing is a simple yet effective way to prevent the spread of any illness. Modeling good hand-washing habits helps kids realize the importance of hand washing.

Make hand washing fun. Use songs, make signs or come up with other fun ways to make sure these habits last.

2. Learn about germs.

Germs can live on surfaces, including desks and countertops. Discuss the importance of not touching your face. Rubbing your nose, eyes and mouth are all ways that we bring germs to our mucus membranes, possibly leading to illness.

“This is why we want to continue to stress good hand hygiene and face mask use,” said Dr. Ho.

3. Have a sick-day plan.

Most schools have policies in place regarding when children should not to come to school.

“As a parent, we have a responsibility within our family to keep our children home if they are ill in order for them to recover. We also have a responsibility within our school family to not spread any illness which our children may have,” Dr. Ho said.

4. Encourage healthy habits.

Getting enough sleep every night, eating healthy meals (especially breakfast before school) and daily exercise are all ways to support our immune system to fight off germs.

5. Get your immunizations.

Protecting yourself from other illnesses helps support our overall immunity. Vaccination against COVID-19 and the flu are important to help keep us all healthier overall, and have a healthier school community.

Last Updated: February 9, 2022

About Author: Laura Nightengale

Laura Nightengale was a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare. 

She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and worked as a reporter at a daily newspaper for five years before joining OSF HealthCare. 

When she’s not working, Laura loves to travel, read, and spend time with her family, including her sweet and ornery dog.

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Categories: COVID-19