Preparing to Go Back to School During COVID-19
Going back to school for children with lupus and their caregivers can be a difficult transition. The uncertainty of the disease can make it hard to predict what kind of challenges each day will bring for students. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic adds a very significant layer of concern for students and their parents as states and counties decide whether and how they open schools back up.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), limited data about COVID-19 and children shows that children are less likely to get the virus than adults and when they do get it, the illness is often less severe than it is in adults. Still, children — particularly those who are in high-risk groups due to autoimmune disease like lupus — and their families need to take additional precautions to ensure a safe transition back to school. Here are some tips on how you can help achieve that.
For In-Person Attendance
Review your local school or district's plan to reduce COVID-19 risk
Research your school or school district's plans to reopen. According to the CDC, there are four main areas you should focus on for schools' plans to reduce the spread of COVID-19. They are:
- Promoting behaviors that prevent the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, washing hands, and wearing masks.
- Maintaining clean and healthy environments for students and staff, including proper ventilation and frequently cleaned and disinfected surfaces.
- Maintaining healthy operations of the school, such as staggering students schedules and reducing classroom sizes.
- Preparing for when a student or staff gets sick with the virus.
Use the CDC's Decision-Making Tool for Parents and Guardians to assist you in your decision on whether to send your child back to in-person school.
Communicate with your child's health care team before making final decisions
Parents and guardians should communicate with their child's health care team before committing to in-person learning. Your child's health care team can help you decide, based on your child's condition, whether it is safe or not to do so. If you both decide it is safe, they can provide additional guidance on how to ensure there is minimal risk to your child. If you both decide it is unsafe, they can provide a doctor's note that allows your child to participate in alternative methods of learning without penalty.
Wear a mask at all times in and around the school building
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you and your child should wear a mask when around others — that includes in and around the school building. Advise your child to keep their mask on at all times while at school. Read more about face coverings at school.
Attempt to maintain social distance
Social distancing may be difficult to maintain in a school environment, depending on what efforts the school is making to encourage it. Still, advise your child to do their best to keep as much distance as possible between them and their classmates and school staff. Close interactions, including hugs and other forms of physical contact, should be avoided.
Wash hands frequently
Encourage your child to wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching their face while at school. If soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be used in its place.
Stay on alert for symptoms of COVID-19
Look out for any symptoms of COVID-19 in both your child and anyone else your child lives with. According to the CDC, common symptoms of COVID-19 in children include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Body ache
Many children have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all while infected with COVID-19. If your child or anyone in your household is presenting with symptoms of COVID-19 or were exposed to someone with the virus, it is best to keep your child home until the people in your household have received a negative COVID-19 test. Read more information on what to do if you or someone in your household has COVID-19 symptoms.
For Virtual Learning
Try to create a distraction-free learning environment
If possible, find a well-lit space in your home where your child can do their schoolwork without distractions, noises, or clutter. Ideally, they could do their work on a flat surface like a desk or table. Speak with your child's school staff to find out what kind of technology they need in order to best do their schoolwork from home.
Communicate with school staff the limitations lupus might cause your child
Although your child is learning from home, there may be times when lupus prevents them from fully participating on a given day. Just as you would during an in-person school year, communicate with your child's school about the possible limitations that lupus might create for them. This could include doctor appointments that take them away from class, extreme fatigue or pain that may require them to stay in bed, etc.
Create a routine
Work with your child to create a schedule based on their school day that you both agree to maintain so they can find some normalcy in virtual learning. Include space for breaks, relaxation, and family time so your child has something to look forward to throughout the day.
Monitor mental health
In-person school does not just serve as a place to learn — it is also an opportunity for your child to socialize and make friends. Without that structure, your child may struggle emotionally. Virtual learning itself may also be a difficult transition. That, on top of anxiety caused by the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, may heighten negative emotions in your child. Check in on their mental health and help them find healthy outlets for those emotions, such as journaling, talking to friends on the phone, getting active, etc. Read more on how to cope with the stress and emotional strain of COVID-19.
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