Disclaimer: I am not a health professional. I am a concerned parent and grandparent. This article draws attention to some of the questions I have about sending my grandchildren to school. ~Rob Kennedy
Getting your child ready for school in the summer of 2020 is a nerve-wracking experience for parents. We have always been concerned about our children's safety both at school and at home. We have taught safe behaviors since they were tiny tots. Suddenly, all those familiar scenarios seem so benign and distant. This COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything you and I have seen in our lifetimes. The virus seems to attack people of all ages. It seems to lurk in hosts and find new hosts via droplets that hang in the air. It lives on common surfaces such as doorknobs and stair railings. It spreads to its new host when he touches his face. Worst of all, there's no vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. Scientists are scrambling to create vaccines, but it doesn't look as though anything will be available before early 2021.
I have listened to This Week In Virology podcasts for several months. I have concluded that frequent handwashing, wearing a 2-ply mask in public, social distancing, staying home whenever possible, are necessary steps to protect myself and others from the virus. That's what the health experts recommend. But what about children in school? Let's look at some of the safety steps and protective measures your child's school will most likely implement when it reopens.
This video explains what COVID-19 is.
Will the school take everybody's temperature daily?
Most schools seem to be planning to take temperatures daily. How they do that depends on the school and its financial resources. Taking individual temperatures involves a certain amount of risk. That's why some schools have installed risk-free body temperature measurement systems.
Will my child have to be tested before she goes to school on Opening Day?
It depends on the school because each private school determines its protocols. Generally, schools seem to be requiring a negative result on a polymerize chain reaction (PCR) test before school opens. Given all the news reports we have seen about how long it takes to get test results, i.e., 7 to 14 days, I recommend scheduling the test well in advance. Ask your school for guidance.
This video outlines the two common types of testing for COVID-19.
What do I do if my child gets sick at home?
Keep her at home. Consult your health professional for a diagnosis. If it is not a severe illness, ask the school what proof of wellness it needs for your child to return to school.
What happens if my child gets sick at school?
In most cases, the school will isolate her. You will be required to pick her up as soon as possible. The school will recommend the next steps depending on the situation. That could mean testing for the virus.
What do I do if my child tests positive and must quarantine for 14 days?
You will keep her home from school and carefully monitor the situation, always following your health professional's instructions. She must isolate even if she is asymptomatic. Be prepared to assist the school with any contact tracing requirements it might have.
What do I do if I think she has been exposed to somebody who has COVID-19?
Keep her home from school. Alert the school of your suspicions. Get her tested as soon as possible. Quarantine and isolate her until you have the test results.
Will the school schedule further testing at my expense?
Testing is costly. I have seen prices ranging from $25 to $150. So, be prepared to pay for additional testing as the school year proceeds.
What do I do if I can't afford the tuition I previously agreed to pay?
Speak to the school office. Explain your situation. Perhaps they will be able to work something out.
How do I know that the school is cleaning and sanitizing facilities thoroughly?
Most schools have implemented deep cleaning and sanitizing programs. Read the CDC guidelines, Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes, to understand the steps involved. Also, everybody will be able to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer.
This video illustrates how commercial firms clean and sanitize during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What kind of mask is best?
The experts seem to agree that cloth masks work best. You can make your own or buy them commercially. Cloth masks cost more initially, but because you can wash them, they are less expensive in the long run. I suggest supplying each child with a dozen masks. That way, you will have a few in the laundry and a few ready to wear. Read the Cleveland Clinic's guidance on wearing masks, Unsure About Actually Wearing a Face Mask? Here’s How (and Why) to Do It.
Will my daughter still be able to play field hockey?
School sports programs will look much different in the academic year 2020-2021. Students will wear masks. Temperatures will be taken. Social distancing will be observed. NFHS releases high school sports guidelines during coronavirus pandemic outlines some of the measures that the National Federation of State High School Associations suggests.
Will my school teach in-person or online?
Because the situation is so fluid, there are no easy answers to this question. Much depends on the physical layout of your school's facilities. Since most private schools tend to have small classes (12-15 students), it is quite possible that most of the teaching will be in person. Be prepared for some online instruction as well.
What can I do to support my school?
Your school needs your support more than ever during these troubled times. If you can afford it, make a gift to the school. Personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, cleaning and sanitizing, and so many more measures explicitly related to the pandemic, are expensive items. Most schools had not budgeted for them. So, your financial help in this area will be much appreciated.
Many families are struggling financially as a result of furloughs, layoffs, and other employment challenges. Consequently, they will probably be asking the school for financial assistance with tuition. Your generous support of the school's financial aid fund will make all the difference in helping students receive the education they deserve.
If you are at a time in your life and career where you can make a major unrestricted gift to your school, this is the time to do it. The need has never been greater.
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