In the past, most getting back to school conversations have been about whether to buy new black leather shoes, Nike or Adidas sneakers and other accessories for your child's new year.
You've gone shopping for school bags, water bottles and other supplies and accessories for their desks. While you'll still definitely have to shop for these, something else on the cards to consider: COVID.
The coronavirus has meant that most kids have been studying from home for the last year and a half, with the delivery of classes being online, not having to worry about packing their bags, getting to school on time or protecting their health.
While most kids and parents are letting out sighs of relief that they can finally get back to a 'normal' routine, seeing friends every day and learning in person, this transition also means we have a few new things on the list to think about at the start of this school year.
Nike, Adidas or Asics shoes might not be at the top of our list of considerations.
To help support your local school community, preparing your kids for a different kind of year is key.
Our Superprof super-guide should clear up some doubts you might have about anything from what supplies to pack in their school bags to where to find out about new rules...
Staying Healthy in COVID Times
It's clear that the biggest issue on the cards is making sure our children stay safe while at their desks in class. Here are some important regulations schools may put in place to protect their local community:
Masks have quickly become essential in our communities, but the regulations on wearing them in schools aren't always clear. This is mainly because each state has its own ideas. For example, advice from the Queensland state government is as follows:
- Masks must be worn by anyone over 12 all the time, except for fitness lessons or when they are distanced, e.g. seated at their desks.
- Children below 12 years don't need to wear a mask, though it's greatly encouraged as long as they're worn properly and comfortably.
Staying in Their Cohort
In some cases, schools have decided to try 'cohorting' to limit the possibility of many students gathering in any one place. A cohort is usually a class or year level, and it's key to know which.
If someone on your child's cohort list has any symptoms, quarantine is likely to be on the cards for the whole group.
Schools might also stagger entry, lunch and exit times by cohort, so you might need to change the time you expect to arrive at the gates for pick-up and drop-off.
Getting the Supplies and Accessories You Need
One thing that's still on the cards is the yearly shop to get everything your kids need. This could be anything from black leather shoes to colourful stationery and paper to a Fitbit fitness tracker.
Before filling your shopping bag, make sure you check any items you have that can be reused from past years, like water bottles or fitness accessories.
Also, while you might be looking to save pennies, remember that the coronavirus has affected businesses around Australia. Instead of buying all your stationery and accessories online for home delivery, shop at a local business and support the community.
COVID Specific Supplies
While most items will be pretty obvious, it's always a good idea to review some hygiene items your kids should have ready on their desks:
- Spare masks;
- Disinfectant wipes for their desk;
- Hand sanitiser; and
- Reusable water bottles (to avoid the drinking fountain).
If each student has their own set of these items in their bags, as well as their individual stationery, they can avoid making close contact with other children. This helps to protect them and stop any rise in cases.
Getting Textbooks On The Cheap
Other than Nike or Adidas shoes, paper and stationery or a cool black Fitbit, the most expensive part of any shopping bag or list is likely to be textbooks, especially for secondary and university students.
In most cases, schools provide a shop where parents can get everything they need. But, while this is definitely less time-consuming, the items in these shops are generally quite expensive.
Anyone looking for cheaper items can try looking online. Books are often on sale and are available for delivery.
There are two main ways to buy books online:
- New and On Sale: Sites like Booktopia and Book Depository usually offer great discounts on a range of new books.
- Second-hand: This is especially useful for university students, who can use sites like Student VIP, Zookal or Jekkle. These sites let students take advantage of options like swapping books with others or even renting for a short period of time.
Finding Out About New Rules
Preparing your kids to get back to school won't only mean buying the latest Asics trainers or cool school bags. Mostly, you need to let them know what's on the cards for their new school year.
To do this, you need to find out, which might not always be the easiest task. You can't always trust the first information that comes across your desk.
Many schools offer help through the delivery of free information sessions or a paper with important items like new regulations and expectations.
If these don't help answer all of your questions, feel free to send an email or make a call to ask the right questions. Here's a list to help make sure you cover all the info you'll need:
- What healthcare rules are compulsory? Which are encouraged for everyone?
- What information should I teach my child to prepare them for this transition without causing them extra stress?
- If my child is anxious in the classroom, who can they go to for help?
- How often should my children be cleaning their desks?
- Is there the possibility of returning to online classes? If so, what technology do I need to have ready?
- Will there be some sort of tracker to limit cases in the school?
- Is there a school paper or newsletter where I can find updates as local health regulations change?
Knowing the answers to these questions will make sure you and your child don't face any surprises, come the start of the first term!
Discuss These Changes With Your Kids
Of course, it's not enough for you to be aware of all of these new regulations. You have to pass the information you're learning onto your kids, but in a way that doesn't freak them out!
We can't share all of our fears and anxieties with them, but to keep them safe, we must give them the health skills they'll need.
A good way to go about this is to try and turn the new rules into play. Have a race to see how fast they can pack their bags, without forgetting essential accessories like masks and hand sanitiser.
Make up a song for them to sing as they wash their hands, to ensure that they're washing for enough time to be clean. If you're not sure where to start, there are plenty of free online resources for parents facing this challenge.
For parents with high school-aged students, don't forget that they'll be feeling anxious too and will need your support.
It's pretty simple to assume that they're old enough and get all of the information from online sources or school.
But, a big part of having these discussions with your kids isn't just about passing on important information, but showing that it's ok for them to be feeling stressed and that you're able to put yourself in their shoes and support them.
Also, the Internet is full of information that is overwhelming and confusing, and you have no idea where your kids might be getting their health information from.
By doing a little research yourself and having a frank discussion with your older children, you can make sure your kids have the right information and that they know you're ready to listen to any of their confusion or fears.
We know this year is going to be overwhelming, with plenty of transitions and confusion, but preparing as best you can before the first day can help to relieve stress for both you and your kids.
So let's get back to school in a fun and safe way!
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