Planning for Virtual or At-home Learning

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

Setting up for Virtual or At-Home Learning

Things to consider as you get ready for virtual or at-home learning.

Actions to take and points to consider:
  • Try to attend school activities and meetings. Schools may offer more of these virtually. These meetings can be a way to express any concerns you may have about the school’s plans.
  • Create a schedule with your child and make a commitment to stick with it. Structure and routine can greatly help your child from falling behind with assignments. Discuss your family’s schedule and identify the best times for learning and instruction, as well as family-oriented physical activity, such as walks outside. A family calendar or other visuals could be useful for keeping track of deadlines and assignments.
  • Try to find a space where you live that’s free of distractions, noise, and clutter for learning and doing homework. This could be a quiet, well-lit place in your dining room or living room or a corner of your home that could fit a small table, if available.
  • Identify opportunities for your child to connect with peers and be social—either virtually or in person, while maintaining physical distance.

Planning for Virtual or At-Home Learning

Here are some things to look for when reviewing your school’s plan for virtual or at-home learning. Some of these action items and points to consider might warrant additional conversations with your school administrators or healthcare provider.

  • Find out if there will be regular and consistent opportunities during each day for staff and student check-ins and peer-to-peer learning.
  • Find out if students have regular opportunities for live video instruction by teachers or if they will primarily be watching pre-recorded videos and receive accompanying assignments.
  • Ask if the school will offer virtual or socially distanced physical activity. If not, identify ways to add physical activity to your child’s daily routine.
  • Ask your school what steps they are taking to help students adjust to being back in school and to the ways that COVID-19 may have disrupted their daily life. Supports may include school counseling and psychological services, social-emotional learning (SEL)-focused programs, and peer/social support groups.
  • If your child participates in school meal programs, identify how your school district plans to make meals available to students who are learning virtually at home.
  • If you anticipate having technological barriers to learning from home, ask if your school or community can provide support or assistance for students without appropriate electronic devices for schoolwork (like a computer/laptop or tablet).
  • If your school offers a hybrid model, be familiar with your school’s plan for how they will communicate with families when a positive case or exposure to someone with COVID-19 is identified and ensure student privacy is upheld.

Mental Health and Social-Emotional Wellbeing Considerations:

Since the school experience will be very different from before with desks far apart from each other, teachers maintaining physical distance, and the possibility of staying in the classroom for lunch, it is unlike anything your child is used to. Before school is in session, you may want to talk to your child and explain that all these steps are being taken to keep everyone safe and healthy. The list below provides actions and considerations regarding your child’s mental health and social-emotional wellbeing, as they transition to virtual or at-home learning.

Actions to take and points to consider:
  • Watch for and anticipate behavior changes in your child (e.g., excessive crying or irritation, excessive worry or sadness, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, difficulty concentrating), which may be signs of your child struggling with stress and anxiety.
  • Talk with your child about how school is going and about interactions with classmates and teachers. Find out how your child is feeling and communicate that what they may be feeling is normal.
  • Ask your school about any plans to reduce potential stigma related to having or being suspected of having COVID-19.
  • Ask your school about any plans to support school connectedness to ensure that students do not become socially isolated during extended periods of virtual/at-home learning.
  • Identify opportunities for your child to be physically active during virtual/at-home learning.
  • You can be a role model for your child by practicing self-care:
    • Take breaks
    • Get plenty of sleep
    • Exercise
    • Eat well
    • Stay socially connected