COVID-19 School Support

young girl wearing a mask in school while reading a book

Support for Parents and Caregivers 

Back to School

School will be different this year due to COVID-19 and many of these changes will be new, potentially confusing or frustrating, and challenging for many families. It’s okay to be scared. That’s normal - but we want you to know that we are working very closely with the school boards in our region to ensure it’s as safe as possible. Whether your child is returning to the physical classroom this September or learning remotely, here are some ideas on how to prepare your family.

 

Back to School Plans

For provincial information about reopening schools, please visit the Government of Ontario’s web page COVID-19: reopening schools and its Guide to reopening Ontario’s schools.

Operational guidance: COVID-19 management in schools

To find out what will happen if there is a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak at a school, please visit the the Government of Ontario’s Operational guidance: COVID-19 management in schools.

For local back-to-school plans, please check your school board’s website:

School transportation (bussing)

Southwestern Ontario Student Transportation Services
For information on school transportation (bussing), please read the Southwestern Ontario Student Transporation Services’ plan, Ready to Roll: A roadmap for safely returning students to school by bus.

Francobus
For information on school transportation for French Catholic Schools Boards, please refer to the Francobus website
 

Preparing for School

Getting into routines

The routines your child may have developed since schools closed in March and then over summer vacation may be different from what will be needed for the return to school. Help get them ready for school by talking about what their new routines will look like and practice them before school begins.1 2

Changes to their routine may include:

  • a different bedtime and time to wake up
  • packing a lunch and reusable water bottle
  • packing their mask/face covering 
  • doing the screening process before going to school
  • putting their reusable mask or face covering in the laundry as soon as they get home
  • logging into their computer at a certain time to participate in online learning or setting aside designated time to do independent school work during the day (if learning remotely)

For high school students who will need to balance remote and in-person learning, discuss the importance of routines and going to bed and getting up at the same time during the week, regardless of whether they are in school or learning from home that day.3
 

Focus on the Positive

While it’s important to talk with your children about COVID-19 and discuss their concerns and any questions they may have, you can also help them prepare for school by focussing on the positive and fun things about schools.4

  • Picking out school supplies and clothes
  • Seeing old friends and making new ones (either virtually or in-person)
  • Learning new things
  • Seeing their teachers

For more information on how to talk to your children about COVID-19, check out these resources:

Develop New Habits

Hand hygiene

Washing hands or using hand sanitizer frequently is a key public health practice for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses. Help your child learn and practice how to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer properly. Be a good role model - demonstrate this routine yourself and remind your child to wash their hands when needed.

Watch a video together with your child to help them learn:

How to cough and sneeze safely

COVID-19 is spread when droplets from an infected person are released by coughing or sneezing and then breathed in by another person who is nearby. It’s therefore important for everyone to practice good respiratory etiquette.

  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or elbow
  • If available, sneeze into a tissue and promptly throw the tissue into the garbage
  • Always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after coughing and sneezing

Teach your child what to do and set a good example.

Wearing a mask

The Government of Ontario has made wearing a non-medical mask or face covering mandatory for children in grades 4 and up while in the school building and on the school bus. Some school boards in our region, including the Thames Valley District School Board and the London District Catholic School Board, have also made it mandatory for children in kindergarten to grade 3 to wear a mask or face covering. For more information, please check with your school board.

Wearing a mask can be a new experience for children and getting used to wearing one can take some practice. Before school starts, make sure your child knows how to properly put the mask on, wear it, remove it, and store it as well as when to discard or replace it.

Learn how to properly wear a mask:

Tips for making masks a habit 5 6 7

  • For younger, school-aged children, use play to normalize wearing masks.
    • Practice putting masks on toys
    • Put a mask on yourself or get siblings and relatives to wear them
    • Do fun activities with masks on
    • Show pictures or videos of other kids wearing masks
    • Look in the mirror together when putting masks on
    • Consider getting masks in fun fabrics your child will enjoy
  • Start with wearing a mask for a few minutes then increase the amount of time each day.
  • Try to mimic what they will need to do in school for snacks and lunch. Practice removing the mask, placing it in a container or paper bag, have a snack or drink, and then put the mask back on. Pick it up by the ear loops without touching the fabric of the mask.
  • Talk with your child about how they feel wearing a mask and look for ways to make them feel more comfortable.
  • Emphasize that the child should never share their mask with others or put on another child’s mask. Encourage them to touch their mask while it is on as little as possible and to wash their hands when they do.

Minimize Physical Contact

An important practice for reducing the spread of COVID-19 is to maintain physical distance as much as possible. Talk to your child about what it means to keep physical distance from others.

Provide them with examples they will understand for what 2 metres apart looks like:

  • A couch with three cushions
  • The length of a bed
  • A pool noodle
  • An adult hockey stick

For younger school-aged children, help them reduce the amount of physical assistance they may require from their teacher.

  • Make sure your child can open their own food containers, packages and drinks. Practice with lunches and snacks before school starts.
  • Make sure your child can take off and put on their outerwear such as coats and boots.
     

Talk About It

Talk with your child about the new health measures they can expect at school and explain why they are important to follow. Encourage your child to ask questions.8 New health measures and changes at school may include:

  • Wearing a mask/face covering
  • Washing or sanitizing hands at certain times throughout the day
  • Keeping physically distant from others
  • Following signs (e.g. where to stand to maintain 2 metres, direction of flow in the hallways, which doors to use)
  • Not sharing personal items with other students
  • Telling their teacher or another staff member if they are not feeling well

Talk with your child about their cohort (the group of students and staff who remain together each day), the changes it will cause, and why it is important for them to stay with their cohort

  • It may mean your child won’t see all of their friends as much as they used to
  • Lunch/nutrition breaks and recess may be different than last school year
  • It is important for your child to stay in their cohort to make it easier and quicker for public health to track and trace contacts when there is a suspected case of COVID-19

Here are some additional resources to use when talking to your child about the pandemic:

Daily Checklist for Going to School In-Person

daily elementary back to school checklist for COVID-19   daily secondary back to school checklist for COVID-19

Can my child go to school?

Use this Return to School Decision Tree to help you determine if and when your child can go to school.

Mental Health Support

Health Care

Food Access


Support for Educators

Guidance Documents

Signage and Resources

References

1Children’s Mental Health Ontario. (2020). Six tips to support your child’s mental wellness and prepare for the start of the school year. Retrieved from
https://cmho.org/six-tips-to-support-your-childs-mental-wellness

2CHEO. (2020). Back to school during COVID-19: Tips for parents and caregivers. Retrieved from
https://www.cheo.on.ca/en/resources-and-support/resources/P6225E.pdf

3Teens and sleep: Why you need it and how to get enough. Retrieved from
https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/teens_and_sleep

4School Mental Health Ontario. (2020). Supporting mental health and wellness during the return to school. Retrieved from
https://smho-smso.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Supporting-Mental-Health-and-Wellness-during-the-Return-to-School-Tip-Sheet-EN.pdf

5Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health. (2020). Back-to-school 2020-21: Mask guidance for parents. Retrieved from
https://wdgpublichealth.ca/sites/default/files/file-attachments/mask_guidance_for_parents_r5_final_aug.26.2020.pdf

6Cavanaugh, B., Aponte, C., & Shamlian, K. (2020). A toolkit for helping your child wear a mask during COVID-19. University of Rochester Medical Center. Retrieved from
https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/strong-center-developmental-disabilities/resources/masks-toolkit.aspx

7American Academy of Pediatrics. (2020). Cloth face coverings for children during COVID-19. Retrieved from
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/Cloth-Face-Coverings-for-Children-During-COVID-19.aspx

8Children’s Mental Health Ontario. (2020). Six tips to support your child’s mental wellness and prepare for the start of the school year. Retrieved from
https://cmho.org/six-tips-to-support-your-childs-mental-wellness

 

Adapted with permission from Middlesex-London Health Unit

 
 
Last Updated: September 1, 2020