Wake County Schools

Masks, hand-washing and other lessons Wake parents need to teach children before they return to in-person classes

Posted October 20, 2020 5:58 p.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2020 7:18 p.m. EDT

— With less than a week before Wake County elementary school students return to the classroom for the first time in more than seven months, school district administrators said Tuesday that now is the time for parents to prepare their children for a school environment that will look and feel much different than normal.

Elementary school students will return in phases, starting next Monday, before resuming daily, in-person classes on Nov. 16.

Crystal Reardon, director of school counseling for the Wake County Public School System, said the changes, including daily temperature checks and health screenings and having to wear masks all day, could be overwhelming for some students. To prepare, parents are being asked to show their children how to properly put on a mask and then have them wear masks for extended periods of time so they can start to get adjusted.

“Lunches will look different, classrooms will look different, but what parents can help us with this week is that different is OK," Reardon said.

Some parents have said they are talking with their children about changes the coronavirus pandemic will require.

“We’re talking about how she is going to need to make sure she is washing her hands and not getting to close to her friends, but I think she is going to do well," Ashley Campbell said of her daughter Caroline, who attends York Elementary School.

Reardon said parents also should re-establish routines, including an earlier bedtime, find comfortable fitted masks for their children and practice anxiety-relieving routines.

"Deep breathing helps slow the heart rate, so that can help students relieve their anxiety," she said. "Counting to 10 or a favorite number can help redirect their brain activity."

Sarah Emanuell’s son returned to daily in-person class last week in Johnston County. He's had no problems so far, she said, which she hopes is reassuring for parents in Wake County.

“Tell them they've got the friends, to wear the mask, wash your hands, keep up the same sanitation requirements, and they’ll have a good time," Emanuell said.

Reardon said that, despite the restrictions, children still stand to benefit from a more normal school day

“It is a lot of back and forth. It is a lot of change," she said. "As our superintendent has said many, many times, there is no good Plan B."

If a student to staff member tests positive for the virus, school district administrators said they don't plan to close entire school buildings. Rather, they will close off certain areas for disinfection. They also will send updates via email and text message to families if someone who is infected was in the school.

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