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Back to School: Health and Safety Tips to Know Before They Go

As families, caregivers and students prepare for back-to-school, we are fielding questions and concerns about this annual rite of passage, now impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To help address these issues and answer your questions, we held a live Q&A on Facebook with experts from UVM Health Network – Central Vermont Medical Center. View the video for the complete Q+A with Pediatrics Medical Director Anna Hankins, MD, and Infectious Disease Specialist Jessie Leyse, MD, MPH, or read through the highlights below.

When preparing for back-to-school, here is our advice that every student, family and caregiver can follow to ease this transition and prevent the spread of COVID-19: 


  • Make sure your child has a mask that fits over the nose and is snug over the face, either by ear loops or by ties. 
  • Some kids may enjoy making and customizing their own masks so they fit just right. 
  • Before school starts, encourage your child to practice wearing a mask at home. 
  • View our Kids & Masks video series where we address masking challenges, cleaning masks, and how to wear them the right way. 


  • Encourage your child to wash their hands often with hot, soapy water. 
  • Remind your child to avoid touching their nose, mouth, and eyes. 


  • Stay six feet apart from other people as much as possible. 
  • If children can stay outside with others, that’s ideal. 


  • Since COVID-19 can often present as a common cold or flu, it’s important to keep children home from school even if their symptoms are mild. 
  • If your child is sick, call your pediatrician for guidance and they will help you determine if a COVID test is necessary. 

Grandparents as Caregivers 

  • Children may continue to have a close relationship with their grandparents, but handwashing, masking and physical distancing will be important when visiting grandparents. 
  • Encourage children to share “air hugs” and “air high fives” with older family members. 


  • Outdoor, distanced extracurricular activities and sports are best right now. Musical theater and chorus? Not a good choice right now because children are typically indoors, singing loudly and within close proximity to others. 

The Importance of Good Routines 

  • Whether learning in-person or remotely, all children will benefit from having a regular sleep and activity schedule. 
  • Strive to provide your children with a clearly defined bedtime that doesn’t vary too much between week nights and weekend nights. 
  • Shifting bedtime earlier by one hour may take a week or so. For example, if bedtime drifted to 10 pm during the summer, first shift it to 9 pm for a week, then shift it to 8 pm. 
  • To ensure kids are tired at bedtime, it may help to wake them up in the morning rather than letting them sleep in. 
  • Closely supervise and set specific limits on screen time and device usage. 

Screentime and Remote Learning 

  • Try to limit screen use to a computer because children need them for remote learning, but they don’t need a cell phone. Keep the cell phone in a separate area for use at designated times. 
  • Parental supervision is important. Check-in on your child during their remote learning to make sure they’re on track and feeling supported. 
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