December 6, 2021

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How Well Is Your School Handling Covid This Year?

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What policies does your school have in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus? Are they working?

Have you or your classmates been exposed to Covid since going back to school? If so, what happened? How do you feel about it?

In “How to Prepare Your Kid for a Coronavirus Exposure at School,” Perri Klass gives parents advice for supporting children and teenagers who are in this situation:

Now that kids are back in the classroom, there’s a very real possibility that they may be exposed to the coronavirus, and may need to be tested — or isolate. This can be alarming for parents, and frightening for some children. Kids may also be disappointed if they have to miss out on certain activities.

Dr. Klass writes that it is important to understand your school’s safety protocols:

First, ask children what they already know and understand about the rules that the school has in place for keeping them safe, and welcome their questions, said Dr. Anna Miller-Fitzwater, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina.

What have your kid’s teachers and administrators “officially” said in school? What have kids been hearing from friends or on the news? If your own understanding of the school’s policy is different from how your child is explaining it, you might want to clarify with the school — and if there is misinformation floating around, correct it.

Acknowledge frankly to children that exposures may happen. But remind them that following the procedures for when they do occur helps them protect their friends and classmates and, ultimately, should help keep schools open.

She also writes about how students may feel if they are exposed to Covid:

For many children who are glad to be back in school, close contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus will mean inconveniences and disappointments — getting tested, missing school, staying home from planned activities if isolation is required. You want your child to feel free to discuss those feelings with you.

If your child needs to isolate in such a situation, they may react in a variety of ways, said Louise Dalton, a consultant clinical psychologist at the University of Oxford department of psychiatry. “Some may feel really anxious and worried, some may feel really angry with the person they think exposed them,” she said. Some children will be furious that they have to stay home, but others may be happy about it.

Parents should “validate and normalize their child’s response,” said Melissa Cousino, a psychologist and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “I often say, ‘This worry that you are feeling or this anger that you are feeling, it’s a normal response to the abnormal,’” she said. The pandemic is what is strange — and wrong — in the world, not the child’s emotions.

Children in middle or high school are more likely to be upset about the social impact of an exposure, such as missing time with friends, school events or sports. “Life was starting to return to some kind of normalcy,” Dr. Cousino said, and now that’s been interrupted. Understand what is most upsetting for that particular child, and if possible, work with the school to recover the opportunity: “It may not be the worry of getting sick, it may be the worry of missing tryouts for that sports team.”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • What safety measures has your school implemented to prevent the spread of the coronavirus? Do you think your school is taking the right steps? Are the protocols in place working?

  • Have there been Covid cases at your school? If so, what happens when someone tests positive?

  • Have you or any of your friends contracted coronavirus since going back to school? Have you been exposed to someone who has? What was that experience like?

  • Dr. Klass writes that teenagers may be more worried about missing out on their social lives than getting sick. Do you agree? Have you had to stay home from any planned activities?

  • More than a year and a half into the pandemic, how are you feeling? How are you managing the current state of our battle with the virus, which may continue indefinitely?

  • What do you think of Dr. Klass’s advice for parents on how to support their children through this stage of the pandemic? How do you think adults should talk to teenagers about Covid?

Want more writing prompts? You can find all of our questions in our Student Opinion column. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate them into your classroom.

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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