Parents and Kids

Back-to-School Safety for Parents and Teachers

Parents and teachers can follow these safety tips to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.
Parent or teacher putting on a child's face mask

Aug. 17, 2020 6   min read

New York State schools have reopened, either in-person, remotely, or a hybrid option. When in-person, students and staff must wear masks at all times if social distancing is not possible. But are kids at risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19 as much as adults are?

A South Korean study of more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients found that children aged 10-19 are just as likely as adults to transmit the virus to others, and children younger than 10 are less likely to spread the virus. A smaller study of 145 COVID-19 patients by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago found that younger kids could spread COVID-19 as much as older children and adults. "We found that children under 5 with COVID-19 have a higher viral load than older children and adults, which may suggest greater transmission," said lead author Taylor Heald-Sargent, MD, PhD. 

It may be a while until we know exactly how COVID-19 is contracted and spread by children. Until then, parents and teachers can follow these safety tips to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.

For Parents

Teach and encourage safety guidelines

When children return to school, they will be taught safety guidelines by their teachers. Although teachers and school staff will be present to help enforce these guidelines, there may be times when your child is learning from home. Teaching your children the basics can help ensure they understand and follow the rules and stay as protected as possible.

1. Wear a Mask: Teach your children not to take their masks off unless it is necessary. Explain to your kids that wearing masks helps protect them and their fellow students from becoming ill and spreading the virus. Pack an extra mask for your child in case theirs becomes damaged or lost.

Common question: Should my child wear a mask at home?

When your child is learning from home, they don’t need to wear their mask at all times. But showing their teacher that they are willing to wear their mask on a video call helps reinforce the in-class rules, promotes a positive learning environment, and empowers your child which can reduce anxiety or stress.

Avoid these Wrong Mask-Wearing Techniques

2. Explain Social Distancing: Remind your children that they should be staying six feet apart from everyone they see. Since this can be difficult for children to understand and adjust to, remind them that this rule won’t be in place forever but it is important to follow now.

3. Pack Hand Sanitizer: If your child is old enough, send them to school with a bottle of hand sanitizer. Encourage them to wash their hands whenever they have the opportunity. Make sure they wash their hands before leaving for school and upon returning home.

4. Avoid Your Face: Teach your children to avoid touching their faces, especially their eyes. 

Clean regularly

When your children get home from school, clean their frequently touched items, such as tablets, laptops, textbooks, folders, and pencil boxes. Wipe them down with disinfectant wipes and let dry.

If you are not home when your child gets home from school, teach them to clean their items themselves or leave them in a designated area outside or near the entrance of the home for you to clean later.

Cleaning Tips for COVID-19

Pay extra attention to your child’s health

Although it’s always best to keep an eye on children’s health, it’s more important now than ever to make sure they are feeling well before they leave the house. The CDC says parents or caregivers are strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs of infectious illness every day.

1. Check-in on their Health: During this time, your children must stay home if they’re not feeling well. Check-in with them as often as possible and encourage them to communicate how they’re feeling. It may be a good idea to take their temperature daily.

People with COVID-19 can show a wide range of symptoms. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Many symptoms of COVID-19 are also present in common illnesses such as the common cold, flu, strep throat, asthma and seasonal allergies.

2. Keep in Touch with their Doctor: Now more than ever, it’s important to take your children to their wellness exams. Schedule their annual wellness exam and keep open communication with their doctor to ensure the health and safety of your child.

Common question: Are in-office doctor visits safe?

While things may look a bit different the next time you visit your primary care provider, Rochester Regional Health is providing the same, high-quality care that we always have thanks to new safety measures like high-level disinfecting, employee and patient screenings, and masking for all. 

3. Monitor their Mental Health: With numerous changes and adjustments, your child may be experiencing increased stress and anxiety. Be sure to check in on them and encourage them to communicate their feelings.

How to Talk to Young Kids About COVID-19

For Teachers

Teach and enforce safety guidelines

Being a teacher is a noble job that requires skill and patience. This year, the role of a teacher will become even more important to the health and safety of children. Be sure to regularly remind students to follow health and safety guidelines to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep students, teachers, and school staff healthy.

1. Basic Health Guidelines: Be sure that students have their masks on at all times, remain six feet apart, wash their hands regularly or use hand sanitizer, and follow any other school safety guidelines.

Common question: How do I ensure kids keep their masks on all day?

There’s no doubt that it’s going to be a challenge to keep kids wearing their masks at all times, but reminding kids that masks are a safe way to stay healthy can help them stay masked up. Host a “mask parade” where kids can show off their mask and explain why they chose it and why it’s important to them. This will help establish a connection between the child and their mask. 

2. Increase Airflow: Open the classroom door and windows whenever possible to increase the movement of air in the room, and position a fan so it flows air out of the room.

3. Teach Hygiene: Incorporate hygiene and its importance into your lesson plan. When children are reminded of safety guidelines and understand why they need to be followed, they will be more likely to practice them.

Provide proper supplies

Make it easy for children to stay clean. Supply hand sanitizer and have extra masks. If students are eating lunch in your classroom, have disinfectant wipes available for them to wipe their desks before eating.

Clean the classroom

Some teachers may be responsible for cleaning and disinfecting their classrooms or personal areas. Here are a few tips to help teachers keep their classrooms clean and protected from germs:

1. Create a schedule: Cleaning and disinfecting your workspace or classroom will be among the most important tasks you'll be faced with this fall. Create a schedule to ensure you stay on top of cleaning and keep a record of when you last cleaned and what you cleaned.

2. Start with commonly touched surfaces: Some of the most commonly touched surfaces and areas in a classroom are tables, chairs, door handles, devices, whiteboards, writing utensils, erasers, and projectors. Start with these surfaces and objects as they will likely attract the largest variety of germs throughout the school week.

3. Take inventory: Many teachers already take inventory of devices and other shared items to ensure nothing goes missing, but this is more important during the coronavirus outbreak. If an item is taken from a classroom that has not been cleaned, germs could spread to another classroom and infect students and teachers.

4. Cover up when cleaning: Always wear PPE (personal protective equipment) when cleaning, like gloves, an apron, and face mask or face shield. This will protect you from germs that live on surfaces and from harmful chemicals found in disinfecting products and cleaners. 

The health and safety of your children and those they encounter is dependent on the safe practices taught to them. Teachers and parents should work with each other and their children to provide the means necessary for them to have a safe and healthy education. During a time of continuous change, remember that the health and safety of yourself and others is a priority.

Next Steps Coronavirus in Our Community

Stay up-to-date on the spread of COVID-19 with information on symptoms, prevention, vaccine updates, a map of local cases, and how you can help.

Read the Latest
covid19 icon