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.
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.
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. Flu shots will be important to help keep us all healthier overall, and have a healthier school community.