For many families, back to school planning will look different this year than it has in previous years. Your school will have new policies in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You may also be starting the school year with virtual learning components. Whatever the situation, these checklists are intended to help parents, guardians, and caregivers, plan and prepare for the upcoming school year.
Some of the changes in schools’ classroom attendance or structure may include:
- Cohorts: Dividing students and teachers into distinct groups that stay together throughout an entire school day during in-person classroom instruction. Schools may allow minimal or no interaction between cohorts (also sometimes referred to as pods).
- Hybrid: A mix of virtual learning and in-class learning. Hybrid options can apply a cohort approach to the in-class education provided.
- Virtual/at-home only: Students and teachers engage in virtual-only classes, activities, and events.
Going back to school this fall will require schools and families to work together even more than before. Schools will be making changes to their policies and operations with several goals: supporting learning; providing important services, such as school meals, extended daycare, extracurricular activities, and social services; and limiting the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Teachers and staff can teach and encourage preventive behaviors at school. Likewise, it will be important for families to emphasize and model healthy behaviors at home and to talk to your children about changes to expect this school year. Even if your child will attend school in-person, it is important to prepare for the possibility of virtual learning if school closes or if your child becomes exposed to COVID-19 and needs to stay home.
We have prepared a checklist for a safe return to school : Checklist for Parents
CDC also offers a checklist for parents in COVID-19: Checklist for In-Person Class
Virtual learning may be a choice or part of a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan for some children and families, and it may be necessary if your child has certain underlying health conditions or is immunocompromised. In a hybrid model, learning may occur virtually during part of the week and occur in-person for the rest. Or, the school year may start with virtual learning but switch to in-person learning for the remainder or certain times of the school year. 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. You may want to talk to school staff to learn more about what they are doing to support connection among students, interactive learning with feedback, building resilience, and social-emotional wellbeing for students who will not be onsite. In addition, if your child receives speech, occupational, or physical therapy or other related services from the school, ask your school how these services will continue during virtual at-home learning. Likewise, if your child receives mental health or behavioral services (e.g., social skills training, counseling), ask your school how these services will continue during virtual at-home learning.
CDC also offers a checklist for parents in COVID-19: Checklist for Virtual Classes
Life during a pandemic is complicated. Along with new safety protocols and restrictions, kids and teens are dealing with changes to routines, school, and socializing. It’s normal for kids and teens to have some difficulty getting used to a “new normal.” In fact, the majority of young people who took a screen at mhascreening.org between April and July of 2020 mentioned loneliness and isolation as the main things contributing to their struggles.1 If your kid or teen still seems to be struggling, something more might be going on. Read more at Know the Signs: Recognizing Mental Health Concerns in Kids and Teens
Many parents and teachers got a taste of what distance/virtual learning looks like during the spring and probably learned quickly about what worked and what didn’t work so well for students. This fall, some districts will have students and teachers return to school buildings and previous protocols for parent-teacher interaction. For those districts that have decided to continue distance/virtual learning, parents and teachers will have to work even more closely together to make sure kids and teens are learning and to monitor their mental health. Read more at Teachers and Parents: Working Together to Make Distance Learning Work