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Back-to-school checklist for parents to protect their children against COVID-19

Back-to-school checklist for parents to protect their children against COVID-19 (Photo: Getty images)
Back-to-school checklist for parents to protect their children against COVID-19 (Photo: Getty images)
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The back-to-school checklist in 2020 appears much different than in previous years amid the coronavirus pandemic but the preparation will help students have a successful school year.

A list of recommendations for parents to consider for this year's back-to-school time is created with mental and physical health and well-being in mind. The key is knowing what your children's needs are and how to best address those needs.

Some children are heading back to the classroom while others are continuing distant learning. Regardless, the checklist below is a guide to consider for your student's success.

Choose a positive attitude

Intrusive thoughts of despair and fear are to be expected for children and adults alike as the world navigates the uncharted territory of COVID-19. We've all witnessed coronavirus spreading and the necessity of quarantine, social distancing, and the daily wearing of face masks.

Keep in mind, a thought can be changed and so can an individual's attitude during times of stress. Choosing a positive mindset begins with making the decision to be positive every day. Being optimistic goes a long way when routines at school - even seating - have been adjusted to minimize the spread of a highly contagious virus.

Dr. Benjamin Chan specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Utah Health. He advised that parents set the example as well as create structure. He said:

So my advice to parents is to create structure within their home. Kids, teenagers will respond to that structure. So even if it has to be, like, a physical manifestation of a chore chart: when people should get up, what time should they have screen time, what time should they work on homework, what time should they call a friend on a phone, what time should they go outside for a walk. People, kids, teenagers will respond to that.

Keep your sick children at home

The Utah Department of Health COVID-19 School Manual states that children who are sick at all should not go to school. Parents should check students for symptoms of COVID-19 every day before school.

This quick assessment can help parents check for symptoms of COVID-19. It is not meant to replace any advice from a health care provider. If at any time a parent has questions about their child’s health, they should seek advice from a medical professional.

Does your child have?

  • Fever or temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher. If you do not have a thermometer, check your child’s skin to see if it feels warm or is red, or ask if he or she has chills or is sweaty.
  • Sore throat
  • Cough - if your child normally has a cough because of allergies or asthma, is this cough different than normal?
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle aches or pains
  • Decrease in sense of smell or taste

If you answer yes to any of the symptoms listed, also consider the following question:

  • Has your child been in close contact to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, in the last 2 weeks (14 days)? This means he or she was closer than 6 feet or 2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) to the person for 15 minutes or longer. If your child came into close contact with someone at school who tested positive for COVID-19, the school or health department would have likely notified you and asked that your child quarantine.

If you answered yes, call a doctor or health care provider right away. Your child may need to get tested for COVID-19. Your child should not go to school until he or she has seen a doctor or health care provider because your child was in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

If you answered no to COVID-19 symptoms but your child is sick, follow your school’s sick policy. Most likely this will mean keeping your child at home until he or she has been fever-free (for 24 hours without medicine) and has not had any symptoms of sickness for 24 hours. More information is available by clicking here.

Students should bring their own school supplies/practice good hygiene

As for what kids need in their backpacks as they head out the door depends on what materials are communicated by their teachers. Oft times pencils, erasers, lined paper, folders and binders are main staples for all K-12 students.

However, do not expect these types of communal supplies in the classroom as in years past. Reach out to your child's teachers if you are not sure what your child needs but be prepared to stock up on those items, in addition to pens, crayons, markers, highlighters and scissors.

Get clarity from your school district on what it will provide for the upcoming year with laptops or Chromebooks, especially if your child is continuing distant learning from last spring. If you are a family in need, ask the school for help. Explain your needs, and ask them if they offer any assistance before you buy your child his or her own devices.

Another item that will be needed that is new this year is a face mask. Gov. Gary Herbert announced July 9 that masks are required for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors in all K-12 school buildings in Utah and on school buses.

Washing cloth face masks regularly, daily bathing, brushing of teeth, and use of deodorant is also important to minimize the spread of bacteria. Get your children in the habit of daily hygiene for the sake of their health - and others around them.

Pack extra hand sanitizer/hand wipes/gloves

A recent survey by FinanceBuzz asked 1,000 parents about their 2020 back-to-school shopping. Poll results showed that 74% of back-to-school shoppers plan to buy hand sanitizer, and 73% will be purchasing face masks.

Dr. Candice W. Jones was quoted in a CNN report that the ultimate goal in every classroom is to reduce sharing as much as possible. She said in the article:

Kids should have a 60% or higher alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which kills most types of bacteria, viruses and fungi. I recommend everyone having their own, not just to avoid hand-washing in communal bathrooms, but also for other situations like on the bus. And it’s important to practice using these items with your child before sending them off to school.

Have an ample supply of masks

Students should buy or make 10 to 15 masks they are comfortable wearing, so they can have two or three face coverings available every day. That's because masks can get sweaty or dirty, and kids need to have a backup mask, just in case. T-shirts and bandanas are not acceptable as a face covering.

The state of Utah's campaign, "A Mask for Every Utahn," supplied masks for all schools but if you are a family in need, please let your school district know and additional masks may be made available if supplies permit.

If your child hasn't had the chance of wearing a mask daily for more than six hours, practice now. Your child will be expected to keep a mask on the entire school day, as well as on the bus, so it helps to get them ready now by allowing them to practice at home.

Keep home safe by having a back-from-school protocol

Something else to consider as your children return home from school is keeping your home as clean as possible — which includes disinfecting your kids when they come through the door.

When children return from school they should immediately sanitize their hands. Board-certified pediatrician Dr. Candice W. Jones told CNN:

Once at home, at the very least they should remove clothes/shoes and place them in the laundry or in a designated safe place for disinfecting. A shower would be great, but is not absolutely necessary.

Dr. Dyan Hes, a pediatrician in New York City, said in a CBS News report it may be a good idea to wash your child's backpack every day because it's possible droplets from an infected individual could land on them. She also advised leaving their shoes outside.

Have daily conversations with your kids

Communications expert, Hollie Dance, was a guest on 2News Fresh Living and said what parents say to and around their kids affects them. She advised that parents get their kids to focus on positive things by asking the right questions, such as:

  • What were 3 things you loved about today?
  • What is something kind you can do for someone tomorrow?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, rate your day. What would have made it a 10?
  • I'm really proud of you because... (Not a question, but the most important thing you can be telling your child).

For more information and


If you are unclear when your child returns to school, below is a list for your review:

Aug. 17:

  • Murray School District
  • Wasatch School District

Aug. 18:

  • Alpine School District
  • South Summit School District

Aug. 19:

  • Beaver School District
  • Carbon School District
  • Garfield School District
  • North Summit School District
  • Juab School District
  • Kane County School District
  • Logan School District
  • Millard School District
  • Nebo School District
  • Provo School District
  • Sevier School District
  • Tintic School District
  • Wayne County School District

Aug. 20:

  • Cache County School District
  • Park City School District
  • North Sanpete School District
  • San Juan School District
  • South Sanpete School District

Aug. 24:

  • Canyon District
  • Granite School District
  • Jordan School District
  • Daggett County School District
  • Rich School District

Aug. 25:

  • Davis School District
  • Emery County School District
  • Iron County School District
  • Morgan School District
  • Tooele County School District
  • Uintah School District

Aug. 26:

  • Weber School District
  • Ogden School District
  • Duchesne School District
  • Piute School District

Aug. 31:

  • Box Elder School District
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Sept. 8:

  • Salt Lake City School District
  • Grant County School District

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