Since the school experience will be very different from before, with desks further apart from each other than normal and teachers maintaining physical distance, it is unlike anything your child is used to. This checklist will help you prepare your child and you for the new academic year:
Start talking now
Actions to take and points to consider:
- Explain that things at school will look different - but tell your child not to worry, because the teachers have been thinking about how to make the school safe and will help you get used to the new layouts and routines. It can also be reassuring to talk about the things that haven't changed, for instance they'll be wearing the same uniform.
- For the younger ones, remember to tell them who will drop them off and who will pick them up. Even if this seems obvious to us as adults, it helps gives kids reassurance and a sense of security. For secondary children, plan together how they will travel to school as this may have changed. Remind children about the importance of sticking to the bubbles that have been allocated on the way to and from school.
- Talk about worries or fears by making time for little conversations about how they're feeling about going back to school. If your child does have worries, acknowledge their concerns first before offering reassurance. For example: It's normal to feel worried about the virus, but here's what you can do to stay safe in school
- Talk with your child about how school will look different (e.g. desks far apart from each other, teachers maintaining physical distance, remaining in set bubble, different routines for start and end of the day and lunchtime).
- When they are back, talk with your child about how school is going and about interactions with classmates and teachers. Find out how your child is feeling and explain that what they may be feeling is normal.
- Review and practice proper hand washing techniques at home, especially before and after eating, sneezing, coughing, and adjusting a face cover (if they are going to need to wear them). Make hand washing fun and explain to your child why it’s important.
- Talk to your child about precautions to take at school. Children may be advised to:
- Wash and sanitize their hands more often.
- Keep physical distance from other students.
- Wear a cloth face covering.
- Avoid sharing objects with other students, including water bottles, devices, writing instruments, and books.
- Monitor how they feel and tell an adult if they are not feeling well.
- If your child rides a school bus, plan for your child to wear a cloth face covering on the bus and talk to your child about the importance of following bus rules and any spaced seating rules.
It’s never too late to start planning
You may have already received clear information and guidance from your school on many of these points. If you are unclear on your schools guidance, please remember to visit your school website to see what’s already there.
To help make sure you have all the information you need for a confident return to school, here are some actions to take and points to consider:
- Be familiar with your local COVID-19 testing external sites in the event you or your child develops symptoms.
- Identify your school point or person(s) to contact if your child gets sick – in most cases this will involve contacting the school office immediately.
- Make sure your child is up-to-date with all recommended vaccines, including for flu. All school-aged children should get an influenza flu vaccine every season, with rare exceptions. This is especially important this year because we do not yet know if being sick with COVID-19 at the same time as the flu will result in more severe illness.
- Be familiar with how your school will make water available during the day. Consider packing a water bottle.
- Make sure your information is current at school, including emergency contacts and individuals authorised to pick up your child from school. If that list includes anyone who is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, consider identifying an alternate person.
- Be familiar with your school’s plan for how they will communicate with families when a positive case or exposure to someone with COVID-19 is identified and ensure student privacy is upheld.
- Plan for possible school closures or periods of quarantine. If transmission is increasing in your community or if multiple children or staff test positive for COVID-19, the school building might close. Similarly, if a close contact of your child (within or outside of school) tests positive for COVID-19, your child may need to stay home for a ten day quarantine period.
- If your child has an EHC plan or receives other learning support ask your school how these services will continue.
- Talk to your school and teachers about their plans for physical education and physical activity.
- Ask how your school plans to help ensure that students are following practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- If your child seems to need mental health or behavioural services (e.g., social skills training, counselling), you may want to ask your school for more information on these services.
- Check if your school has any systems in place to identify and provide mental health services to students in need of support. If so, identify a point of contact for these services at your school.
- Check if your school has a plan to help students adjust to being back in school. Students might need help adjusting to how COVID-19 has disrupted their daily life.
- Find out if there will be regular and consistent opportunities for staff and parent check-ins taking into account government restrictions around.
- Going back to school virtually may pose additional challenges with staying connected to peers, since students may have less frequent or no in-person interactions to each other. Ask your school what steps they are taking to help students adjust to being back in school and to the ways that COVID-19 may have disrupted their daily life.
- If you anticipate having technological barriers to learning from home, ask if your school or community can provide support or assistance for students without appropriate electronic devices for schoolwork (like a computer/laptop or tablet).
- Ask your school’s plan for how they will communicate with families when a positive case or exposure to someone with COVID-19 is identified and ensure student privacy is upheld.
- If a lockdown occurs, learning may take place virtually, the school year may start with in person learning but switch to virtual learning for the remainder or certain times of the school year. Ask your school how they are planning for such an incident.
On the first day and every day – steps to take at home
Actions to take and points to consider:
- Check in with your child each morning for signs of illness. If your child has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, they should not go to school.
- Make sure your child does not have a sore throat or other signs of illness, like a cough, diarrhoea, severe headache, vomiting, or body aches.
- If your child has had close contact to a COVID-19 case, they should not go to school. Follow your school guidance on what to do when someone has known exposure.
- Notify your schools relevant contact if your child gets sick.
- Develop daily routines before (and after school) —for example, things to pack for school in the morning (like hand sanitizer and an additional (back up) cloth face covering if necessary) and things to do when you return home (like washing hands immediately and washing worn cloth face coverings).
- Reinforce the concept of physical distancing with your child.
- Anticipate behaviour changes in your child. Watch for changes like excessive crying or irritation, excessive worry or sadness, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits or difficulty concentrating, which may be signs of your child struggling with stress and anxiety. That initial anxiety will be quite normal given the amount of time pupils have had away from school, however prolonged changes should always be discussed with the teacher / school.