Pediatrician: Students should prepare now for return to school

She suggests students practice with masks, thermometers, and social distancing
Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 10:23 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - In some metro school districts, students will be back in the classroom for traditional instruction. But the school environment will be anything but traditional with mask requirements and social distancing guidelines enforced.

Dr. Sharon Stoolman, a pediatric hospitalist in Omaha, says students and their families should be preparing and practicing right now to make their transition into the new year as smooth as possible.

Dr. Stoolman first suggests having kids start to wear masks in public to help them make it part of their daily routine. Parents should also wear masks because the parents often serve as role models for young kids.

“The first thing I think we do as parents to help get our kids ready for wearing a mask in public and school is to wear a mask when we’re in public or school to show them that it’s not that hard and that I do it and make it a routine,” said Dr. Stoolman.

Millard Public Schools parent Leslie Borja says her daughter, Eva, has been practicing wearing a mask for weeks.

“I told her that if she does go back she has to wear a mask the whole day, she goes ‘that’s fine!” said Borja.

So 2 weeks ago Eva started wearing a mask for an hour a day. The next week it was for 2 hours. This week it’s for 3 hours. Borja says it’s important that Eva gets into the habit of wearing a mask right now, and not be forced to make a drastic change when school starts.

“I told her ‘if we don’t do this and we’re not consistent, it’s gonna be a problem when school starts,‘” said Borja. “Because what’s going to happen? She’s going to be messing with it, playing with it. I don’t want to add any more stress to her teachers or any more stress onto her and onto myself.”

Borja says she’s also been driving home the importance of handwashing and keeping hand sanitizer nearby.

“I have some in my purse and as soon as they touch something ‘alright gimme your hands’ so that it can be in their brain so they remember this is what they have to do when they do go back to school,” she said.

Dr. Stoolman says families are faced with a unique situation this year and it’s important that families prepare for the changes ahead.

“I think it’s important for our mental well-being to not walk past this and brush past this and say it’s no big deal or to minimize the changes that we’re asking and the sacrifices that we’re asking, especially for our adolescents,” she said.

Other suggestions for parents include finding a good, reliable thermometer and keeping it in plain sight as a visual reminder to check temperatures in the morning.

Leslie Borja says she plans to do just that.

“Because not only are we worried for our little ones, but everybody else,” she said.

Dr. Stoolman also says parents shouldn’t be afraid to talk with their kids about this new normal.

“It’s going to be different when you go back and we’re going to do more fist bumps and less hugs, but we’re really going to work hard to stay safe,” she said.

Borja says she’s been preparing Eva for proper social distancing.

“She understands everybody has a bubble. If you’re in my bubble you can tell somebody ‘listen, you’re way too close,‘” she said.

Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Stoolman says parents should let their kids know that things will change as the year goes on, and to expect those changes. She also encourages parents to find resources they trust for any concerns that pop up throughout the school year.

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