Back-To-School Prep In Our Uncertain Times

Back-To-School Prep In Our Uncertain Times

I still get excited thinking about the first day of school and prepare as if I were a student: new outfit, just the right shoes, book bag packed, lunch box prepped, and school supplies stocked. On top of that, I lose sleep for several nights leading up to the first day of classes.

How do you prepare for the start of school in the middle of a global health emergency?

As a parent, how do you plan and help your children prepare for the start of a school year that still has so many looming and unanswered questions? Will learning occur face-to-face, with no limitations or restrictions? Will learning occur in person with requirements and mandates imposed? Will learning occur remotely, in much the same way that the school year ended? Will your schools create a hybrid approach, with a blending of in-person and remote learning? Will the approach change as the health situation of a community changes

As each community and school sets a course of action to meet its particular needs, parents will again have to prepare for the unexpected, remain flexible, and help the students navigate this unique and unprecedented situation.

Smiling mother and daughter preparing for lessons and draws at the table with pencils and paints

Image via Freepik

I first want to assure you that the school administrators and staffs have been working non-stop over the last several months to prepare for whatever may occur. Also know that the school personnel want your children in school and want things to return to the old normal and comfort of doing what they know, the way they know best. And, know that the safety and security of the students and staff is always a priority, but never as evident as right now. They are faced with unparalleled challenges as mandates, rules, and expectations change almost daily.

With all of that in mind, I have five recommendations for parents.

Top Suggestions for a Successful 2020-2021 School Start:

1. Go Back-to-School Shopping.

Carry out back-to-school activities in much the same way as usual. Go about your normal routines and preparations for school. More of your shopping might occur through online ordering or curbside pickup, and the items might differ from previous years. Nonetheless, honoring the process and excitement of the start of the school year will benefit both you and your child.

2. Remain flexible and ready for changes throughout the school year, especially the fall semester. 

Many school districts have announced plans to start remotely or to delay the first day of school. In fact, many schools have already had to adjust those intentions, based upon health department guidelines and restrictions. I foresee this being an ongoing occurrence this year. Thus, while a plan and structure might be in place right now, that might have to change as the first day of instruction nears.

3. Communicate with the school.

Most schools and school districts have sent surveys and questionnaires to parents. Be sure to complete and return them in a timely manner. This is the way in which campuses create schedules and make specific accommodations for the arrival of staff and students. Similarly, most schools and school districts are posting current information on websites or parent portals and sending informational emails. Many campuses and districts maintain social media profiles and these are often a way to find the most current update. Take the time to read the information and regularly check for updates.

If you have a question about plans or requirements, call the school and talk to an administrator or counselor. Moreover, if you should change your plans about your student, let the campus know as soon as possible. For instance, if you plan to send your child to in-person instruction and change your mind as the start approaches, inform the school that your child will receive instruction at home.

4. Create back-up plans and safety nets.

By now, you and your family are probably finalizing plans for the start of the school year, whether that be remote or in-person learning. As stated above, the situation might change in an instant, so spend time now developing a Plan B and Plan C. Are you able to rely on the help of family, friends, or neighbors? Might you arrange a coop or schedule-sharing with other parents? Right now, many teachers are contemplating retiring or stepping aside to care for their own family needs. You might be able to employ a recentlyretired teacher or aspiring teacher to help in your home or neighborhood in a small group setting. Some community organizations are also offering “learning pods,” individual and small group settings for those families that need additional help.

5. Talk to your children

Ensure that your students understand the unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves and that neither you nor they are not responsible for the situation. Make sure they understand that when they do return to the school grounds, things may look different than they expect. For instance, on-campus dining, PE, and recess might not occur in the same way as before. Classroom seats might be spread out to help with physical distancing. Instructional materials might not be shared in the same way the students are accustomed. Partitions and shields might be erected in classrooms, offices, and other areas. Some campuses will require students and staff to wear masks. Make sure that your child has worn a mask and knows the expectation. Help your students be ready for whatever they might encounter on the campus.

School boy wearing face mask thumbs up over blackboard with text

Image via Freepik

Your outlook and attitude matter.

Children are resilient beings and quickly adjust to all sorts of changes and situations. As we work together to navigate these unsettling and historic times, model good citizenship for your children. We can all sacrifice, share, cooperate, and coordinate in ways we never expected. Moreover, we can practice patience, kindness, and understanding while we work together to navigate uncertainty and the current health emergency.

Vera M. Wehring, Ph.D.

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