COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Westerville and Gahanna Jefferson school districts will be returning th to the classroom Thursday and several other districts will be doing the same over the next few weeks, but how can parents make sure their children are prepared to go back into the classroom, especially after a year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and varying mask policies across the region?
Dr. Parker Huston, a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said the biggest thing parents can do is to get back into a routine and discuss expectations for the school year.
Schools are issuing various mask policies, some opting for universal masking, optional, or even a blend of the two for back-to-school policies.
“It’s really beneficial to talk with them about here’s what your school decided and here’s what we’re going to do to make it the best school year we can,” Huston said.
Huston and Dr. Ben Bring, a family medicine practitioner with OhioHealth, both advise discussing the policies with their children.
“I know there could be a lot of anxiety that can come with this as well, especially kids who haven’t been around a lot of people here recently,” Bring said.
For those schools who are requiring masks, Bring said kids might need time to readjust.
“To start practicing wearing masks, the best thing you can do is a couple hours a day, even if it’s 20-30 minutes at a time,” he said. “Just get used to keeping those masks on as long as you can.”
Franklin County Public Health and Columbus Public Health are both recommending universal masking for schools, while the Ohio Department of Health is calling for those who are unvaccinated to mask up.
Some schools have opted for optional masking for back to school.
“Anytime there is that variability, you introduce this conversation or potential awkwardness of ‘you are, I’m not,’ ‘why this, that,’ ‘what are you thinking, what am I thinking,’ and just preparing them for the idea that there might be some of those conversations in school,” Huston said.
Huston said it’s important for families to discuss the policies, no matter what decision they make.
“Just teaching them to be respectful and, you know, you can ask questions, you can talk respectfully about it,” Huston said.
Huston said parents should also remind their children to be flexible. There could be changes moving ahead during the school year.
Guidance from federal, state, and local agencies is urging people to mask up and get vaccinated if eligible.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital has released a back-to-school guide for parents. To read it, click here.