Many of us are still in the thick of debating what school model makes sense–fully remote, hybrid, pods–but if you’d decided that your child will be spending some amount of time physically in the classroom, here are seven ways to reduce the risk of catching COVID or bringing the virus back into your home.
1) Clean the air in the classroom.
I hope your school has a plan for improving air quality—ideally even holding classes outside if space and weather allows.
If they don’t, placing portable air filters in each classroom can clear the air of viruses and bacteria–in addition to removing a wide variety of environmental toxins.
Here is more on which filters kill the virus that causes COVID-19 and this is the filter we are buying for our schools. (We’re also donating filters to underserved schools, so please reach out if you’re a teacher in such a classroom.)
2) Keep your child’s immune system strong.
We aren’t big vitamin proponents in normal life, but select supplements are worth considering this year. You could even add a serving of (yummy tasting!) elderberry syrup to a water bottle so your child boosts her immunity while she sips throughout the day. (Or go the easier route and just give them a gummy.)
Wondering about the science behind elderberry? Studies suggests it “may help to prevent the early stage of coronavirus infections, which includes COVID-19,” according to Dr. Andrew Weill. One caveat from my husband, a molecular embryologist: “It’s possible that if you’re sick with COVID-19, the increased cytokine activity conferred by elderberry could add to fluid volume in the lungs–part of the “cytokine storm” reaction. For this reason, if you become symptomatic or test positive, I’d stop slugging elderberry.”
Another supplement to consider is vitamin D for its general immune-boosting properties.
My mom, a certified holistic health coach, suggests six daily habits that keep kids’ immune systems in top shape:
- Greens every day.
- An alkaline diet (cucumbers with their crackers, bananas on their cereal, a little broccoli in their pasta).
- Eating with the seasons.
- Getting quality sleep.
- Creating a peaceful home.
- Spending time outside every day.
Suzanne wrote a separate post to provide details and tips to incorporate these habits into your daily life come fall!
3) Teach your kid to clean his own hands.
Normally, I fight the urge to turn my kids into germaphobes (which isn’t to say I cannot often be found shouting “don’t touch that subway pole!”). However, right now I am reminding them to use hand sanitizer every 30 minutes or so whenever we are outside of our home and touching things. Consider sending your children to school with easy-to-open sanitizer and encouraging him to apply it often. (This one is easiest for my kids).
4) Put your child in a mask that fits.
I like these soft organic cotton ones that fit well and don’t require lots of fiddling with. And of course, because masks are the new missing sock in our home, I have at least five per kid--especially since I’ll want to wash them daily when they get home from school.
(Primary also makes nice masks that have a removable filter for extra protection.)
5) Enable your kid to keep a distance from her teachers.
For the sake of the teacher as well as your kid, you want her to handle herself without a teacher having to come too close. Depending on the age of your child, this likely means shoes that slip on or have Velcro rather than laces, pull-on pants rather than ones that need buttoning after the bathroom, and so on.
This is a year to definitely make sure ALL of your child’s items are clearly labeled, so that he keeps his own stuff in his own space (I am normally so bad about having our stuff labeled, but I am vowing to do better!).
It’s also a year to make sure her backpack, lunchbox, and jackets and hoodies have functional zippers, and that she’s able to open his water bottle and lunch containers without help. If you have a kid with seasonal allergies, send along tissues.
6) Push for safer cleaning products.
While COVID is the most front-of-mind risk, I’m also worried about the heavy dose of bleach and other cleaning products our kids will be exposed to in the school. If your school is receptive, you might consider lobbying for them to use one of the many non-toxic solutions that will kill the coronavirus. This one is the most earth-friendly.
7) Keep your home germ-free.
This year, we will have designated space outside the door for backpacks, shoes, and outerwear. The kids will come in from school, put their clothes (and masks) straight into a hot washer, and go take their showers immediately. And, I’ll definitely be running an air filter in my home all evening.
What other strategies are you employing to mitigate the inherent risks of sending your kids back to the classroom? I would especially love to hear how parents of middle- and high-school aged kids are tackling this.
P.S. Lots of you have asked what our plans are for school this year, and I am happy to share:
- Felix is starting at a private middle school, which will be fully open and because it is small is able to abide by social distancing rules with limited class size, spacing between kids, etc.
- Wolfie is going to public school for second grade, and he will be there half-time (with half as many kids) and doing remote learning from home on the other days.
Do I feel one hundred percent comfortable sending them to school? Definitely not. However, I basically trust our governor and our school administration/teachers, and the community at both of the schools, and so I am willing to take this calculated risk for the educational and social-emotional benefit to my kids.
I would almost certainly make a different choice if I lived in a city where my values didn’t align with local elected officials, school leadership/teachers, and the parents whose kids will be in school with mine—or if I lived in an area where there were high levels of COVID currently circulating. If New York City’s numbers begin to creep up, my husband and I will re-evaluate our strategy. We are fortunate that I work from home, and I know many of you are having a much more stressful decision-making process.
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