It is the time of year when parents and students of all ages begin preparing to go back to school. They will be exposed to new experiences and ideas, but also higher stress and risk of exposure to viruses — including the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and the proliferating variants.
The ongoing pandemic has added challenges to every facet of life, including navigating classrooms. Returning to school has taken on new meaning and a new set of worries for students, parents, caregivers, and teachers. The decision on what classes and learning looks like is usually made on the local level by school boards and government officials. Overall, schools choose from one of three models:
- Distance learning. All instruction is done remotely using technology and other tools.
- In-person schooling. Similar to traditional schooling with enhanced health and safety precautions and procedures, but risks infection for students/teachers/their families.
- Hybrid schooling. This model includes elements of both distance and in-person schooling.
Schools may adopt one or more models over the course of the school year and still-evolving pandemic. Being prepared for a variety of learning environments can empower you and/or your child/student and reduce any additional anxiety. In each case, there are steps you can take to reduce the risks of COVID-19, help your student feel safe, and make informed decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Get vaccinated. All adults and children over 12 years old currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccines should get fully immunized by the start of school year. People are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine such as Johnson & Johnson’s.
- Wear face masks. Everyone over 2 years old should wear face masks that cover the nose and mouth. This is a simple, proven tool to protect students and teachers indoors — even if they’ve been vaccinated.
- Monitor health. Be aware of any symptoms you may have, stay home if you are sick, get tested, and notify the school if you are at risk of exposure/infection.