Returning to the classroom this fall has many parents, students, and teachers feeling anxious. Is it safe? What will school look like with so many new precautions in place? Unfortunately, COVID-19 has become a politically-charged issue, and making matters even worse is the amount of misinformation spreading on social media. It’s important to set aside the politics and memes and look to reliable information sources so your family can be prepared for returning to school safely this fall.
How to Find Trustworthy Information About Going Back to School During the COVID-19 Pandemic
While it’s tempting to pass along stories about COVID-19 that you’ve read on Facebook or share memes about face masks, there’s often no way of vetting this information. Even if advice on social media claims to be from a prestigious hospital or university, unless you’re getting it straight from the source, you have no way of knowing if it’s true.
Your local community is the best place to start when it comes to getting information about how COVID-19 is impacting your area. Follow guidelines from your child’s school district and visit your city or town’s website for updates on local outbreaks. Most county websites also have in-depth information about the COVID-19 situation in your area and recommendations from the county health department on preventing infection.
In addition to local resources, the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics have very thorough guides to going back to school safely. We recommend downloading the CDC’s in-person learning checklist, which offers comprehensive advice about all aspects of going back to school during the pandemic, including mental health considerations.
In-Person Learning Safety Recommendations
What can parents and teachers do to make sure students are safe this school year? Here are suggestions from the CDC and AAP, along with links where you can find more information.
Wearing Cloth Face Masks
In the early days of the pandemic, there was much confusion regarding face masks. In an effort to reserve face masks for first responders, the general public was discouraged from wearing them. Later, this recommendation was reversed and wearing cloth face masks was encouraged.
So what’s the bottom line? Face masks are effective. COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets; face masks keep respiratory droplets from spreading. Because people can be infected with COVID-19 and have no symptoms, cloth face masks are one of the most important tools we have to keep the coronavirus from spreading in the classroom.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
- Children over 2 years of age should wear cloth face coverings in child care and at school.
- Face masks should fit securely over the nose and mouth, held in place with ear loops or ties.
- Children should wash hands before and after wearing a face mask and avoid touching it once it’s on.
- Face masks should be removed by taking off the ear loops or untying the ties—children should not touch the front of the mask.
- Masks should be washed and dried after using.
To make sure children will actually wear their masks all day long, choose ones that are comfortable to wear, made of breathable fabric, and have fun patterns. At GEDDES, we offer colorful face masks designed with children in mind. They’re sized appropriately, made with breathable fabric, and they’re secured using ear loops, making them comfortable and easy for kids to put on themselves.
Because both the CDC and AAP recommend washing face masks after a day of use in school, it’s a good idea to stock up on a week’s worth of masks so you don’t have to wash your child’s face covering every day. Our masks have a low price point so you can purchase as many as your family needs. Keep them in a basket by your child’s backpack so they can get in the habit of grabbing one on the way out the door—use another basket for collecting used face masks at the end of each day, then throw them in the wash on the weekend.
More resources on face masks:
- AAP: Cloth Face Coverings for Children During COVID-19
- AAP: Misconceptions About Kids and Cloth Face Coverings
- CDC: Guidelines for Cloth Face Coverings in Schools
It can feel like pulling teeth to get kids to wash their hands, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever. Many schools are implementing new hand hygiene protocols that have students washing their hands as soon as they enter the building and at other transition times throughout the day.
The AAP says that hand washing is the single most important factor in preventing disease. Children touch infected surfaces, then rub their eyes, wipe their noses, and put their fingers in their mouths and get sick. Good hand washing habits don’t just help prevent COVID-19 infection—they can also keep your child from getting colds, flu, and bacterial infections.
Most kids don’t wash their hands as long as they should, so it’s a good idea to work on hand washing skills at home so they know how to do it right when they’re at school. The CDC’s hand washing guidelines are as follows:
- Wet your child’s hands with warm water, then place a squirt of soap on their palm.
- Have them rub their hands together and scrub both from fingertips to wrist.
- Do this for 20 seconds—teach young children to sing the alphabet song while they wash.
- Rinse the hands thoroughly, then dry.
You don’t need to use antibacterial soap either—not only is antibacterial soap ineffective against COVID-19, which is caused by a virus, some infectious disease experts think antibacterial soap may encourage the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Hand washing is the best way to keep hands clean, but alcohol-based hand sanitizers will do the job when there’s no sink available. We offer affordable hand sanitizer in a conveniently-sized bottle that can be placed in the pocket of a backpack or stored in a school desk.
More resources for hand washing:
Keeping a Healthy Distance
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges in returning to school safely this year is getting kids to abide by social distancing guidelines. Even adults have trouble staying six feet apart—and it’s not uncommon for people to either consciously or subconsciously believe that wearing a mask means they can disregard social distancing. The best way to prevent COVID-19 transmission is to wear a mask and maintain social distancing.
Schools will be doing their part by adjusting school start times to help prevent bottlenecking at the door or crowding in the halls and by placing desks as far apart as possible, but this can be jarring for children who are used to going to school and sitting next to friends, giving their teachers hugs, and sharing school supplies with classmates. Prepare your children by talking to them about what school will look like this year and why it’s important to keep a distance from their friends and not share school supplies or pass other items back and forth.
Your child’s school will be implementing a more rigorous cleaning and disinfecting routine, but you may wish to disinfect your child’s backpack and school supplies on a regular basis as an added precaution. If you choose to do this, the Environmental Protection Agency has a list of disinfectants that are effective against COVID-19. Remember that cleaners that claim to be antibacterial are not necessarily antiviral as well—if it’s not on the EPA list, it’s likely not effective in killing the COVID-19 virus.
Social distancing isn’t just about keeping six feet apart and not sharing food, toys, and school supplies with classmates. It also means quarantining your family when you’ve been exposed to someone with a confirmed COVID-19 infection and keeping kids home from school when they have symptoms of upper respiratory infection.
Before the current pandemic, most parents would send their kids to school with the sniffles, but we’re living in a different world now—that runny nose means your child needs to stay home from school, even if they feel fine otherwise, even if they don’t have a fever, even if you’re certain it’s a cold or allergies. Now isn’t the time to take chances. Social distancing means taking social responsibility and protecting your child’s classmates and teachers.
More resources for social distancing and disinfection:
- CDC: Cleaning Guidelines
- CDC: Social Distancing
- CDC: Cleaning, Disinfection, and Hand Hygiene in Schools
The Bottom Line on Returning to School Safely
There are a lot of unknowns right now that make this back-to-school season different from what we’re used to, but being well-informed can help alleviate some of that uncertainty. By understanding how COVID-19 is transmitted and following guidelines from trustworthy organizations, you can protect your family and make the best of the upcoming school year.
Back to School with GEDDES
GEDDES has everything you need for back to school, whether it’s online or in the classroom. Request a school supply catalog to see our complete product lineup or view our school supplies online and place an order on our website.