New School Year Brings A "New Normal"

Contributed by Brandi Fitch

As Franklin County adjusts to COVID-19 and we move into the fall months, March has suddenly become August and the new school year is upon us. However, this school year will not look the same for all students throughout the country. While we don’t know how long this pandemic will cling on to us, students must continue to receive an education virtually or in-person (depending on the school district). This will be an adjustment for all students and their families as details for the upcoming school year are still being determined by school boards. Whether your student is heading back to the classroom virtually or in-person, here are some suggestions for the upcoming COVID-stricken school year. 

If your child will be attending school virtually, this is a new experience and big adjustment for the both of you. It’s important to be encouraging and supportive during this time; get them excited to try something new. According to understood.org, here are eight ways to help get your student ready for virtual learning:

  1. Create a learning space for your child: Make sure that your child is working in a quiet, non-cluttered area of your home so that they can focus.
  2. Make a schedule and stick to it: Starting habits on school days can help to keep your child on track with waking up on time and doing schoolwork.
  3. Reduce distractions: Be sure to remove anything from the room that your child may be distracted by. Whether it is pets, video games, TV, or toys, removing them will help your child focus!
  4. Keep a calendar and color code it: Use a virtual organizer to color code due dates for school assignments, such as red for math and blue for reading.
  5. Get plenty of exercise: Exercising helps you think better! Make sure your child takes a break and stays active. Find some family-friendly activities you can do in your home.
  6. Research what accessibility features your child can use: Most phones, laptops and other devices have built-in assistive technology. Text-to-speech tools can help struggling readers and speech-to-text can help struggling writers.
  7. Reach out to your child’s teacher: Set up a direct line of communication with the teacher. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to reach out and touch base. Being proactive is essential if your child is struggling in the classroom.
  8. Look for ways to remove learning barriers: Review the materials that are sent from your child’s teacher to determine if they may struggle with assignments. Reach out to the teacher to discuss how to identify and overcome these learning barriers.

Remember, this is a new experience for your child’s teacher as well. Make sure that you stay in touch with them and communicate to make this adjustment easier for the teacher, your child, and you.

If you have the option to send your child back to school for in-person classes and are struggling to make a decision, consider the following:

  • Does your child’s school have the necessary resources to reopen effectively?
  • Is your child able to wear a mask/cloth covering for a long period of time? Does the school allow this?
  • Are you satisfied with how the school is addressing concerns and questions from parents/caregivers?
  • Are you comfortable with the school’s plan if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?

These are all essential things to consider when deciding to send your child back to school. You can utilize the CDC’s Back to School Decision-Making Tool and find additional information here.  The CDC also has a checklist to plan for in-person classes, which can be found here.

All of these changes from COVID-19 can put a lot of stress on your child’s shoulders. It is important to make sure that they are adjusting accordingly to these new norms by the resilience that you nurture them with. This can help them to continue coping with other difficulties they may face throughout life. Be sure to:

  • Connect with family and friends to provide a strong support system
  • Take a break from the constant stream of daily activities and projects
  • Lead by example and practice self-care by showing your child the importance of taking time to eat healthy, exercise, rest, and participate in activities that you enjoy
  • Build self-worth by acknowledging how your child has handled hardships in the past
  • Accept change and help your child to understand that this is a part of life, and that new goals can be created through these changes

More information on building resiliency can be found here.  

Your child is always looking up to you for reactions and responses to situations. While this continues to be a stressful time, be sure to try staying positive with any school year adjustments so your child will remain excited and positive as well.