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The new rules of school safety

Even as more students and teachers head back to the classroom, they’ll need to keep taking every precaution to fight COVID-19 and other viruses. Although there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the spread of COVID-19, here are some good practices to avoid spreading germs of any kind in school. 

Give immune systems a boost
Intentionally choose meal items that boost your child’s immune system. The vitamin C in orange juice enhances immunity by supporting cellular function, among other benefits. Vitamin E, found in seeds and nuts, is an antioxidant that’s been shown to improve the body’s ability to fight off bacteria and viruses. And eating yogurt daily can improve immune function by increasing production of antibodies. Since kids can be notoriously fussy, a multivitamin is another way to be sure they get their nutrients. 

When in doubt, wear a face mask
As of the publication of this article, due to the possibility of asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19, the CDC and WHO still recommend face masks in public places—especially indoors—where it’s difficult to avoid close contact with others. Since your school may not require the use of face masks, discuss with your children your preferences for masking up, especially when it’s hard to maintain social distancing (on the bus, in school hallways, etc.). Explain the importance and purpose of the mask, practice properly putting on and taking off masks while avoiding touching the cloth portions, and instruct them to never share or trade masks. It’s a good idea to provide your child with a clean mask and a back-up mask each day along with a clean, resealable bag for them to store the mask in when they can’t wear it, such as at lunch. And label your child’s mask clearly so it’s not confused with someone else’s. 

Practice social distancing
The CDC now recommends three feet of distance between individuals to slow the spread of COVID-19. Students should be placed in the classroom according to the guidelines, as well as the lunchroom, hallways and school bus. Some schools may choose to continue hybrid schedules, and/or staggered dismissal for classes so smaller groups are moving around, rather than everyone being in the hallways at once. Discuss with your child the importance of social distancing and keeping their hands to themselves. 

Keep up the 20-second handwash
Speaking of hands, practice handwashing at home with your children and explain why it’s important to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Give them a small bottle of alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol to use when handwashing isn’t available. Also, explain why they should avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth. 

If you hear, “I don’t feel good,” keep them home
Encourage your kids to let you know if they’re not feeling well. Emphasize the importance of going to their teacher if they feel ill at school. The ultimate goal is to keep everyone safe through low exposure to viruses of any kind. Students should also be reminded that if they’re sneezing or coughing, they should cover their nose and mouth—with their mask, into the crook of the elbow if they’re unmasked or into their hands (which should then be washed). 

Act immediately upon exposure
If a student has been in close contact (within six feet of the person for a total of at least 15 minutes within a 24-hour period) with someone known to be infected with COVID-19, they should quarantine as recommended by local public health officials unless they’re fully vaccinated. Quarantine is typically at least 10 days from the last exposure or seven days from last exposure with a negative test at least five days after exposure. 

Keep in mind that the COVID-19 pandemic is in different stages across the country and world. So even by the fall, not every school will be back to standard operating procedures. But even for common viruses like colds or flu, everyone’s support with these precautions can help make sure that school is healthy, safe and equitable for students, teachers, staff and families. 

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