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Back to School | Overview

In most school districts, kids will return to in-person learning this September. Children and parents are both eager and anxious about this return to “normal” after almost two years of anything but normal. As COVID-19 is still a risk, especially as new variants emerge, this school year will look a little different than it has in the past. But we all share the same goal: let’s send our children back to school in the safest way possible to allow school to remain open.

Vaccines are our most effective tool to protect against COVID-19. The vaccine is safe and effective in preventing severe disease from COVID-19. As of August 2021, children ages 12 and older are eligible for the vaccine, and should get immunized as soon as possible. According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines have been and are still undergoing the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history, and this includes studies in adolescents.

As Dr. Rebecca Berger from Pediatric Associates of North Riverdale, a division of Boston Children’s Health Physicians notes, “The COVID-19 vaccine isn’t the only vaccine children need to return to school. The influenza vaccine and other routine vaccines are important too. Be sure to check with your pediatrician to make sure your child is up to date on the entire vaccine schedule.”

Since not all school-aged children will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in September, masks will still be necessary to add an additional layer of protection to keep teachers and children safe. It is amazing how comfortable children have become wearing masks, and it is encouraged for vaccinated parents to lead by example and continue to wear their masks in public places.

It will also be important to keep your children home when they are sick so the spread of germs is limited. Having a back-up child care plan in place now will help decrease in-the-moment stress, and also limit missed days from work. If your child does get sick, your pediatrician can help you determine the appropriate time for them to return to school.

As the return to in-person learning will be new for many children, it is important for parents to be aware of subtle signs that their children could use support during the transition. Here are a few changes to look out for:

  • Changes in sleep patterns: Either more or less than usual. Some children will describe having trouble falling asleep and some children may avoid or procrastinate their bedtime routine.
  • Changes in eating patterns: Regularly skipping meals, or showing no interest in food they used to enjoy. Stress can also be a cause of rapid weight gain.
  • Isolation: Your child may begin to act withdrawn and become less interactive. Be aware if your child starts spending excessive time alone in their bedroom, or doesn’t want to make plans with friends.
  • Increased worries: Being cautious and diligent is good, but be on the lookout for excessive worries. Signs of this include frequently asking to have their temperature checked, constantly looking for symptoms, and the inability to focus on anything other than COVID-19.

If you notice signs of any of the above, please talk to your pediatrician.

Children with special medical or developmental needs may require extra consideration when preparing to go back to school. This is a good time for parents to review their IEP (Individualized Education Program) and make adjustments as needed.

We are all excited to see the return to in-person learning! Let’s work together to get all eligible children vaccinated against COVID-19, support mask-wearing , and ensure annual check-ups and staying up to date on all vaccines.

Stay safe and be well.