Summer is coming to an end, and parents across the country are preparing for a new school year while trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Some schools remain online, others are going to hold in-person classes with restrictions and still others will implement a hybrid instructional model. School this year will look very different than it has before, and each family will need to evaluate whether distance learning or in-person instruction is best for its children and household.

Your trusted nurse practitioner or other health care provider can help you make the right decision for your family, based on your unique circumstances. If yours is among those families choosing to send children back to school, here are some tips for keeping your kids safe at school.

  • Prepare your student for the changes ahead. Talk to your child about the ways schools are adapting this year to keep your child and their classmates, teachers and families safe. Explain how to practice effective social distancing at school, how classes and activities will be different — and sometimes limited — and how important it is for your child to follow school rules and their teachers’ guidance to help keep everyone healthy.
  • Teach your children about how to wear and manage a mask. Many school-aged children have some experience wearing a mask outside for short periods of time. Transitioning to wearing a mask for a full school day requires conditioning and practice. Show your children how to properly wear their mask (over their nose and limiting gaps where germs can enter), how to remove their mask safely and how to wash their hands after handling it to avoid COVID-19 exposure. Help your children practice wearing masks for longer periods of time before school begins. 
  • Create a plan to prepare for a positive COVID-19 case at school. Create an advance plan with your family, so you will be prepared if someone at school tests positive for COVID-19. Are you going to pull your child out of school and move to online learning? Is your child going to quarantine at home if exposed to COVID-19? It’s important to put a realistic plan in place that prepares you for a variety of scenarios. Contact your health care provider if you think your child may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Keep in contact with your school officials. Sign up for school updates and make sure to read any documents your child brings home regarding the pandemic.
  • Arm your children with the best supplies. Schools will provide sanitation supplies for students and staff, but it doesn’t hurt to send your children to school with extra wipes or hand sanitizer, along with their new binders and pencils.
  • Educate yourself about COVID-19 symptoms and safety. Know the symptoms of COVID-19 and the ways to prevent contracting it. If you or your child gets sick — with COVID-19 or any other illness — contact your school and your health care provider. Stay at home to prevent further spread, and follow your health care provider’s advice regarding treatment.
  • Consider virtual learning. If you’re not comfortable with your children attending in-person school this year, explore with your school and jurisdiction opportunities for virtual learning or homeschooling.