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School Prep: How to Keep Kids Safe at School During COVID-19

Wednesday, August 12, 2020 1:54 PM

By: Lauren McRae

This is the first blog in our "COVID-19 and the Classroom" series. Stay tuned for more! 

Before your children return to the classroom, whether now or in the future, you can help empower them to be confident, calm and safe when they finally reunite with friends and teachers inside school buildings. Try to remember that children take cues from their parents so it’s important to talk with them in a calm manner when sharing information about how the virus spreads and what they can do to stay safe.

Back to School

“Knowledge is empowerment,” said Lakshmi Halasyamani, MD, Chief Quality and Transformation Officer at NorthShore. “We can heighten our sense of control and well-being and impart these lessons to our children by teaching them to take action by wearing face masks, social distancing, hand washing, and paying attention to how they are feeling. We know these actions are effective in preventing the spread of the virus.”

With this in mind, we asked Dr. Halasyamani for her back-to-school guidance during this pandemic era:

If during the day my child ends up closer than six feet to another student or a teacher, how serious is the risk if both people are wearing masks?
COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact, within six feet of distance (two arm lengths) for a prolonged period. Wearing masks and frequent hand washing are the best precautions when social distancing is not possible. Keeping students and teachers in small sub-groups for the entire time they are in school and not mixing groups will also help minimize risk. In situations where social distancing is not possible, the following approach ensures that any inadvertent exposure to a COVID-infected person is a low-risk exposure. This approach includes wearing a face mask and limiting interactions that are within 6 feet to 30 minutes.

What is the best material for masks? Are cloth masks safe?
Yes, cloth masks are safe. Surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders. It is most important that masks are worn snugly, covering both the mouth and nose.

How should parents train their children to properly wear a mask?
Wash your hands before putting on your mask. Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin, but make sure you can breathe easily. Here is a pictorial on how to properly wear a mask.

How are social distancing recommendations affected when students have their masks off to eat lunch or breakfast?
Social distancing is even more important when masks cannot be worn during meals. Students should be grouped in small groups and should not share any utensils or other objects. The small groups should remain the same throughout school days and the groups should not mix. Children should bring their own meals when possible and eat meals socially distanced indoors or outside (if the weather is nice) instead of communal dining areas.

How should masks and/or other PPE be worn, removed and stored?
Masks should be worn correctly for maximum protection, covering mouth and nose and fitting snugly. Masks should not be worn around the neck or upon the forehead. Avoid touching the mask. To remove the mask, untie the strings behind your head or stretch the ear loops and handle only by the ties or ear loops. Fold outside corners together. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth when removing and wash hands immediately after removing. Here is a pictorial on how to properly use a mask

What are the best guidelines to determine who must remain home, and is not safe to attend school as it relates to COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms?
All employees and students who are sick or have recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19 should stay home. Staff and students should stay home if they have tested positive or are showing any COVID-19 symptoms.

If you have even one of the following symptoms, you should stay home. People with COVID-19 can have a wide range of symptoms:

  • 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