Health and Safety Tips for Your Child’s Return to School

As the Delta variant continues to surge, and New York City schools fully reopen on September 13, anxiety is high among many parents who find themselves wondering if the mental and physical benefits of returning to school outweigh the risk of their child contracting COVID-19.


While COVID-19 is proving to be quite unpredictable, the value of in-person learning cannot be ignored. Kids have probably suffered the most socially during the pandemic, and it is very important that they are able to go about their normal, daily lives.


Following are several health and safety considerations and tips from Summit Health, the health care network formed by the merger between Summit Medical Group, a physician-led multispecialty medical group, and CityMD, the leading urgent care provider in the New York metro area:


Am I putting my child at risk?


American Academy of Pediatrics urges in-person learning and masking in its guidance on safe schools. Further, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place, including universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.


While it is true that more children are getting diagnosed with the Delta variant, children are engaging in more activities and social events this year than last. Thus, we are going to see more cases in children, especially those under 12 that are not vaccinated. Children above 12 years old are now eligible for vaccination, which adds another layer of safety to in-person learning. While no child is at zero risk, the benefits of in-person learning are clear and based on the experience of the past year, schools know what is needed to keep kids safe.


Above the standard safety precautions that include wearing masks and practicing good hand hygiene, students, teachers, and staff should not come to school if they are not feeling well.


Express any concerns you have, but don’t ask the school to take it to extremes. For example, taking every student’s temperature every day is likely unnecessary.


Still, it’s important that parents monitor their children’s health carefully. If your child has a temperature or shows signs of illness, keep them home from school and get them tested for COVID-19.


Why attending school is important to your child’s mental health


Learning to socialize and building friendships are fundamental parts of child development as they are vital for children to learn about themselves. In addition to reading, writing, and math, children learn social and emotional skills along with physical exercise while at school. Interaction with others teaches kids how to take turns, participate in conversations, follow directions, work collaboratively, and more.


How can my child socialize safely?


It may be unreasonable to believe that children are not going to hug one another during an event like recess but note during outdoor play there is clean air. There is a big difference between outdoors and indoors, and when it comes to indoors, schools are trying extremely hard to separate children to an appropriate social distance and enforce masking. Indoor masking allows children play in a relatively low-risk manner, and outdoor play is a great way to jump-start physical activity in children. When it comes to lunch break, many schools are enacting staggered schedules and locations that include indoor and outdoor designated areas.


How will my child handle the return to school?


Since no two children are the same, some may jump back with aplomb in while others will find it more difficult. Children may struggle both academically and socially as they begin to acclimate to their new normal.  The demands of virtual schooling were very difficult from their prior in-person schooling. However, educators understand the past year-and-a-half was unprecedented, and many schools are adjusting their curriculums to help students reach academic goals.


It may take time for students to reacclimate to a full day of academic work, school activities, and homework. One way to make it easier is giving children a space to talk about how they are feeling.


Health care providers are walking hand in hand with families as we navigate these difficult waters. We must learn how to live with COVID-19 because it is not going away as quickly as we had all hoped. There needs to be a sense of normalcy in our and our children’s lives, and in-person schooling is a step in the right direction.


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