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11:47 AM

Returning to School During the COVID 19 Pandemic: In-Person Learning

For parents who have a child starting school in person, it’s normal to have some anxiety about the entire process, staying informed and connected may reduce these feelings and can give you a way to express concerns that you have regarding practices at your child’s school.

Consider the following if your child is set to start in-person learning and or will eventually be transitioning from virtual at-home learning to in-person learning:

Get organized and stay informed: Make sure you are aware of the safety guidelines that your school will be taking when students are back in the classroom.

Will face coverings be required for ALL children? If so ensure you have taken the last few weeks of summer to have child practice wearing their face covering or mask and encourage minimizing touching the face while putting the mask on or taking it off. Other things to consider regarding masks/face coverings:

  • Ensure the mask/face covering you choose fits snugly yet comfortably against the face, covers the nose and mouth completely, and if its design is “re-usable” ensure the material allows washing and drying without damage to shape or build of the mask.
  • Once you have found the type/style of mask your child is comfortable in ensure you have several available as backups.
  • Tips on practice for wearing a mask (gathered from several different expert pediatricians)
  • Have the child wear the mask/face covering during times likes watching a movie or playing a game. Allow them to take breaks but also praise them when they have successfully worn the mask or covering for a significant amount of time.
  • For younger children needing help with wearing a mask use a favorite stuffed animal to demonstrate proper mask wearing, or find pictures of children or their favorite cartoons wearing masks.
  • Modeling is very important. As a family model wearing masks/face coverings, children learn by example and this is one of the best ways to teach a child the importance of wearing a mask.
  • Get in the habit of checking in with your child each morning for signs of illness. If there is ANY concern at all take the child’s temperature (if the child has a temperature of 100.4F or higher even without any other symptoms the child should NOT go to school).
  • Thereafter monitor for any other symptoms: ensure your child does NOT have sore throat, cough, diarrhea/vomiting, headache or body aches.

Even if symptoms seem mild they should be recognized and taken into account in order to avoid potential spread of any infectious illness. This will remain important as the cooler weather and fall season are typical for other respiratory illnesses to arise such as influenza.

  • If your child is sick and develops symptoms of COVID make sure you are aware of where you child can be tested. Also make sure you know who the school’s point of contact is for reporting illness. Find out what options for instruction/learning will be available for the child if quarantine is required. Make sure you are familiar with the school’s plan of communicating with families when a positive case or exposure to COVID-19 have occurred.
  • Ensure your child is up to date on ALL recommended vaccines including the flu vaccine when it becomes available this year. We do not know how these two respiratory illness will affect severity of illness if a child or adult is co-infected.
  • Review and practice proper hand washing techniques with your child at home and ensure they are aware of the options available at school for hand hygiene.
  • Adjust daily before and after school routines to include the following if you had not been doing them already: remember to pack hand sanitizer and extra face coverings/masks. Have children change out of school clothes into clean set of clothes and wash hands as soon as they return home.
  • Make sure the school has up to date contact information including emergency contacts as well as individuals authorized to pick up your child. If the list includes anyone who is considered high risk for developing severe illness for COVID-19 consider choosing an alternate person.
  • Plan for potential school closures or quarantine periods. Consider if you will be able to take time off work should the child require quarantine at home. If the parent is unable to work from home or take time off work it is important to identify an adult who would be able to supervise the child during this time.

Stay alert: We know these times of significant change and decreased social interactions can contribute to stress and anxiety in children as well as adults.

Talk to your child about what to expect regarding how school will look different from before. For example desks may be set far apart for distancing purposes, teachers and staff will likely be using masks/face coverings and in some instances eye protection or googles, lunch time may occur at staggered times in smaller groups. Sports and other outside activities may involve different precautions than before. Be alert to changes in your child’s behavior that may indicate they are struggling with stress, anxiety or depression.

These include excessive crying or irritation, excessive worry or sadness, change in eating habits or sleep habits or difficulties concentrating among other changes in their typical behavior.

Remember there has already been a lot of stress with handling the many unknowns and issues the COVID pandemic has brought, it is important for children and adults to take breaks when necessary, get plenty of sleep, exercise and eat well and stay socially connected during this time.

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Get to know Bianka Soria-Olmos, D.O.

Dr. Soria-Olmos is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Haslet. She was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, so Cook Children's has always had a special place in her heart. She came to know Cook Children's when she was just a kid herself. She went to the medical center a number of times with her active younger brother, who needed care following several mishaps with broken bones. The visits inspired her to decide, "I want to be a Cook Children’s doctor one day."

In pursuit of her dream, Dr. Soria-Olmos attended Texas Christian University (TCU) for a degree in biology and to fulfill the pre-medical school requirements. After graduating from TCU, she chose to stay local and attended medical school at University of North Texas Health Science Center/Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Worth. She completed part of her pediatric clerkship at Cook Children's, learning about pediatric medicine by attending rounds with pediatric hospitalists. It was then she knew she wanted to be a pediatrician.

She began her career with Cook Children's in 2014 as a pediatric hospitalist caring for sick children admitted to the hospital. Today, she works at Cook Children's primary care office in Haslet. Her special interests include child safety, child development and asthma.

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