How Parents Can Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19 at School
Because the situation surrounding COVID-19 is constantly evolving, some information may not be up to date. Stay informed by following information from your local officials and by visiting the CDC website.
As in-person classes begin, parents may wonder what they can expect from a school year during a pandemic. In compliance with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), all teachers and staff will be required to self-screen and be prepared to self-isolate if they show symptoms or were exposed to someone who’s tested positive. Students will be expected to do the same. As a parent, you also play a role in limiting the spread of COVID-19. Below, we discuss some frequently asked questions about what you can do to keep your kids and their schools safe in 2020.
What happens if there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 at school?
Schools will immediately separate any student who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms until they can be taken home. Schools will also need to promptly clean areas used by the student. If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, the school is required to close off the areas frequently used by the individual until either they can be disinfected or seven days have passed since that person was on campus. Schools must notify all teachers, staff, and students’ families if there is a confirmed case identified among students or staff.
Parents will need to make sure that their kids follow their school’s policy with any area restrictions or closures until it is safe to re-enter them. Keep up to date with any news or communication from their schools, and be prepared for the possibility of your child being exposed, in which case the school will notify you. Reminding your children to be safe and remember to follow CDC guidelines also be key.
“Continue to encourage your children to wear their mask properly during the day and continue good handwashing to prevent exposure,” said Dr. Jerissa Belsha, pediatrician at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group in The Woodlands.
What should parents do if they're notified of their kid possibly being exposed to the virus?
Schools will be utilizing contact tracing in the event of a confirmed case to determine what other students were in close contact and possibly exposed. If your child has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you will be notified and will be asked to keep them at home. Close contact is generally defined as either being directly exposed to infectious secretions (like being coughed or sneezed on) or being within 6 feet for a total of at least 15 minutes.
Parents will need to make sure that their children can stay home in the event of exposure and may have the option to switch to remote learning until a 14-day period has passed.
“Current guidelines recommend self-quarantining for 14 days after known exposure while monitoring for any signs and symptoms of COVID-19,” said Dr. Belsha. “Children can return to in-person school at the end of 14 days if no symptoms of COVID-19 present. It is recommend students get tested for COVID-19 if they start having any symptoms while quarantining.”
Any students quarantining at home should remain distant from the rest of their household to limit the risk of COVID-19 spreading to any other family members.
How can parents stay diligent in assessing their kids' health before sending them to school?
Parents should closely monitor their kids for the following COVID-19 symptoms according to the CDC:
- Feeling feverish or a measured temperature of at least 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
- Loss of taste or smell
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Shaking or exaggerated shivering
- Significant muscle pain or ache
- Nausea or vomiting
Parents who notice any of these symptoms in their children need to notify their school immediately and have them stay at home.
Dr. Belsha also recommends having a conversation with your children about symptoms. “Have a discussion with your kids encouraging them to make you aware of any new physical symptoms they develop, especially fever, nasal congestion, cough, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, headache, sore throat, body aches, and loss of taste or smell.”
When should parents consider switching their children to virtual learning instead of in-person classes?
Parents should under no circumstances send their children to school if they have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 and should switch to remote instruction instead. Parents may also switch their children to virtual learning if they have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 until the 14-day incubation period has passed.
“Virtual classes are a great option for children that need to self-quarantine for 14 days due to COVID-19 exposure or for families/students who have risk factors for a complicated course if infected,” said Dr. Belsha.
Parents may request that their student switch to virtual instruction at any time. If a parent requests virtual instruction and their school doesn't offer it, the parent may enroll their child in another school that does offer it for transfer students.
Returning to school during COVID-19 may not feel normal. But with the new policies and guidelines in place, as well as the support of teachers, staff, and parents, we can help make sure that students are learning and thriving in a healthy and safe environment.
“Teachers are doing a fabulous job with helping children be safe at school, and as parents, we can continue to be positive at home about the school changes and mask wearing,” said Dr. Belsha.
If you start to experience any signs of illness, like a fever or cough, staying home is always the best thing to do. Our doctors at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group offer virtual visits, so you can be seen quickly from the comfort of your own home. For more information about COVID-19 and resources about what to do if you think you have this virus, take a look at our Information Hub to learn more.
TEA | SY 20-21 Public Health Planning Guide
CDC | Information for Pediatric Healthcare Providers
KVUE | TEA Gives Direction If Someone Tests Positive for COVID-19 During On-campus Learning