Today, I surveyed some friends and colleagues on their feelings about the kids returning to in-person school here in Oregon. I asked the participants, parents/caregivers, if they are nervous about the kiddos going back to school, considering Oregon’s current covid infection rates. 100% of the participants said yes. I then asked the educators if they were nervous about returning to the classroom, considering the same thing. Again, 100% of the participants said yes. Everyone I surveyed has been vaccinated willingly and said they would vaccinate their kids when kids under twelve have access to a vaccine. I also asked their main concerns about the return to school and received these answers: 1) crowded classrooms swaying the ability to maintain the “3 feet apart when able” standard that schools have set for this year 2) kids under twelve years old not being vaccinated 3) at-risk people in student’s homes being infected due to students at school catching covid by being unvaccinated or through adults who have breakthrough cases (catching covid even when you’re fully vaccinated).
Last year, we collectively learned a lot about the virus and the best practices to prevent catching it. It looks like our best weapons are 1) masks, 2) social distancing, 3) frequent handwashing, 4) ventilation, 5) vaccination, 6) obtaining contact information when someone tests positive for covid 7) quarantine for those who are infected or might be infected.
This year, it looks like schools are keeping similar guidelines. Still, one noticeable difference is the distance guidelines have moved from six feet apart to three feet in elementary school settings. The CDC has stated that three feet between masked students is enough to prevent transmission of the virus. https://www.oregonlive.com/coronavirus/2021/03/oregon-officials-adopt-cdcs-new-3-foot-rule-for-schools.html.
It seems schools are doing everything in their power to keep their environment covid-free. Most schools are encouraging/requiring teachers/staff to get vaccinated, disinfect the environment regularly, require masks, and provide opportunities to social distance in the building. What can we do as parents/caregivers to do our part? The only thing I can think of is to provide our kids not only with masks and hand sanitizer: but with knowledge about why these things matter and how to keep themselves and others safe. Surely, many kids have heard of covid and know how dangerous it is, but it is important to remind them of the recent rise in cases in Oregon and the return to full-time, in-person instruction.
My kiddos are 6 and 8, so the best teaching tools for them (in my opinion) seem to be visuals and/or short videos. Here are some that have worked well for us to explain covid and the importance of safety.
- A short, but kid-friendly and informational video about the power of masks: https://www.pbs.org/video/what-it-important-wear-mask-right-now-l7gvqh/
- Another good informational video explaining the virus and how to keep yourself and your community safe from University of Michigan: https://publichealth.umich.edu/kidscovidresources/.
- The following is an article explaining an experiment a doctor named Richard Davis performed to show the effectiveness of masks. Of course, I don’t expect kids to sift through the article but there is a great visual in there with two petri dishes and the difference between the number of germs, masked vs. unmasked. I showed this visual to my eight-year-old daughter the other day, and she was just blown away.
- The Scholastic website has sections for teaching three different groups of kids about covid 1) Pre-K-3rd grade 2) 4-5th grade 3) 6-12th grade. There are videos and interviews, articles, videos, posters for the classroom/home, and so on. A great resource. Here is the link: https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/coronavirus.html.
- I posted this before, sometime last year, but it’s worth posting again. A scientist named Richard Wiseman developed a game relating to the covid-19 pandemic. It’s called, “Can you Save the World?.” The player must avoid sneezes in a crowded street while collecting masks to donate to healthcare workers. It’s a fun game. My kids played it many times. Here is the link to the game: https://martin-jacob.itch.io/can-you-save-the-world.
- There were a few kid-based shows/specials on TV that explained covid to kiddos.
- “Kids Together” Nickelodeon town hall. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAhfsC73JgM.
- Sesame Street also did a town-hall episode about the virus: https://www.cnn.com/videos/health/2020/12/19/abcs-covid-19-sesame-street-entire-town-hall-december-19-2020-sot.cnn.
- “Daniel Tiger: Won’t you sing along with me?” is a special that originally aired last August. It is based on Daniel’s disappointment in how hard life in a pandemic can be relating to not gathering with friends and family. Unfortunately, I can’t find it anywhere online. Just like everything else: it can be found on Amazon. There are three options: rent for $3.99, buy for $4.99, or you can access it for free if you sign up for a PBS Kids 7-day free trial. Here is the link for more info: https://www.amazon.com/Daniel-Tigers-Neighborhood-Wont-Along/dp/B08FNL639F.
- I know vaccines are a touchy subject for many, but health experts urge anyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. Another good way we can help our schools stay safe is to pass information about vaccine availability onto others who are interested in finding a vaccine but can’t. Perhaps a good way to do it without ruffling the feathers of fellow parents would be to talk to the principal or someone at the school district office to offer to help other families find vaccines if they’re interested? Here are some links that can be shared to help others get vaccinated in Oregon
- Aside from providing information and safety materials like masks and sanitizers to our kids, we can urge them to empathize with healthcare workers. We can explain that we can all use the safety guidelines and preventative measures to give our local healthcare workers some much-needed relief. There are plenty of articles that pop up if you Google something like, “Oregon healthcare workers tired.” It’s heartbreaking. Here is an example: https://www.oregonlive.com/health/2021/06/hospitals-struggle-to-deal-with-jammed-emergency-rooms-after-exodus-of-nurses.html. Kids don’t have to sit and read the articles, but it would be helpful for us to give kids an idea of what healthcare workers have been going through this past year.
My kids are supposed to be heading back to in-person instruction at their school on Sept. 7th but honestly, I wonder if that is still going to happen. I watch the local news every night, and it really seems like things are getting bad again with infection rates. I am definitely wondering if a sudden change and hybrid or even full distance learning might be suggested in these next three weeks. Whatever the case may be, we should all continue with our safety measures against covid. The virus seems to be hanging on tight, unfortunately. Wishing you all the very best of luck in getting your kiddos to school in a safe way.
Stephanie McCoy was born and raised in Portland, Oregon-where she still lives. She recently graduated with a Master’s in Education degree from Concordia University. In her free time: she likes to read and write, get outdoors, embrace her kiddos and husband, and watch travel documentaries.