Back to School Guide for Fall 2021
Get Your Kids Excited
Create anticipation for back to school by bringing back traditions you’ve had in the past, or making some new ones:
- Say farewell to summer with their choice of a fun day out.
- Make shopping for new school supplies special by going out for lunch or ice cream after.
- Make an annual time capsule with photos, handwriting samples and drawings. Open it at the beginning of every school year.
- Do a back-to-school interview. Record height, weight, friends, favorite movie and foods, and what they want to be when they grow up. Keep them in a notebook to read the day before school starts.
- Plan a special back-to-school dinner with your kids’ favorite foods. Break out the decorations and dress up for the occasion.
Teachers are Excited About School, Too!
“Nothing can replace the impact, relationships and joy of in-person learning environments,” says Katie Blum, a second grade teacher at Sugar Hill Elementary and Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year. “Having all of our students in the same classroom allows teachers to develop a closer community, or class family, and nurture not only academic skills, but also behavior and social skills.”
“I’m excited about returning to campus for many reasons. The most important part of it is that I can see the emotion from each face,” says Yao Li, a Chinese Instructor at OMNI International School. “Face-to-face interaction helps me see students’ learning experience and tells me instantly what I should do next. My students told me that they love going back to school, too.”
Tips and Tricks For a Great School Year!
- Work together to create an outline of your child’s school and activity schedules in a cute planner. Create a family calendar with everyone’s activities and commitments.
- Refresh rules for screen time. When and for how long can they use electronics? Have a “bedtime” for electronics that is well before your child’s actual bedtime.
- Shop for school supplies and clothes early. Before shopping, go through your kids’ wardrobes and last year’s school supplies, and toss or donate the items they’ve outgrown or no longer want.
- Increase the independence of younger kids by practicing tasks before school starts: refilling a water bottle from a water fountain or sink; opening a lunch box, snacks and containers; sitting, eating and cleaning up a meal at a table within 20-25 minutes; memorizing family or guardians’ real name, phone number and address; and focusing on an independent task for 10-20 minutes.
- Have a backup transportation plan in case your kids miss the bus – make sure they know who to call if this happens.
- Create an “inbox” for kids to leave sheets that need your attention, like permission slips.
- Know how to ask about their day – “how was school?” may not be the best conversation starter. Ask open-ended questions, or share something about your own day before asking what the best part of their day was. If they come to you with a problem, brainstorm solutions together rather than immediately trying to fix it.
- Serve a healthy breakfast that contains protein. Children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better.
- Prioritize your family’s activities. Even though things are slowly returning to normal, use this time to evaluate the hobbies and activities your children enjoy, rather than overscheduling and signing your kids up for every available opportunity.
- Create a quiet workspace for homework and projects. Remove distractions from the area, and keep school supplies organized nearby.
Advice from Experts
Make the transition back to school better with these ideas and advice from professionals.
Melisa Marsh, Cobb Schools’ Supervisor of School Counseling, Advisement and Crisis Response:
As children and families acclimate to shifting school schedules, many will struggle with changes in routine and the loss of whatever daily online habits they’d settled into during distance learning. Returning to school in-person will also mean navigating new or altered physical environments and following a variety of safety protocols. Some children could even feel like they’re experiencing withdrawals from their digital lives. To help with this, parents could ask their child to identify ways they might balance their media use.
Lisa Kelly, Lower School Principal at Mt. Bethel Christian Academy:
Parents should start establishing the morning routine a few days before school starts to help make the transition to getting up and out of the house easier. Identify who is responsible for each task, the parent or the child, including: packing lunch, snack and water bottle; ensuring homework and school items are in the backpack; and having a morning hygiene and breakfast routine. Having a solid plan in place that has been rehearsed will help make those first few early mornings go more smoothly, which greatly benefits the child. Students who feel rushed and out of sorts at the beginning of the day will be more anxious and unsettled in the classroom.
Barbara Jacoby, Cherokee County School District’s Chief Communications Officer:
Cherokee County School District encourages parents of rising kindergartners to check out the information on our website that highlights the learning and fun planned for their child’s upcoming year, including a kindergarten guidebook and a “day in the life of a kindergartner” video at bit.ly/CCSDkindergarten. Resource webpages for each elementary school grade with printables, like flash cards and handwriting templates, is at bit.ly/CCSDresourcesK.
Dr. Andi Shane, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University:
In-school instruction is a personal choice, and every family needs to make a decision based on what works best for their child and their family. We have increasing evidence that secondary transmission (infections resulting from infections in children and staff at school) is rare. In addition, as more people 12 and older are being vaccinated, the risk of transmission in the school setting is reduced even further. We also know that the social, emotional and developmental opportunities afforded by in-person instruction far outweigh the risks of infection transmission. However, as a pediatrician specializing in infectious disease and epidemiology, we still need to be safe. This means ensuring that students and staff are completely asymptomatic before going into the school environment, emphasizing hand hygiene and masking, and reminding students about reporting symptoms immediately.
Planning for a Changed School Environment
Keep in mind schools and school systems are monitoring guidelines to determine what changes will be implemented for the year.
- Parents may want to check their school’s policies on social distancing, masks, visitors, serving meals in the cafeteria, assigning seats on buses, health checks, using water fountains, after school programs, recess and playground protocols.
- To help your child acclimate to socializing with more than just family members, choose a family you trust to have a playdate at a playground or park.
- Know your school’s resources. “Since some students may be returning to in-person instruction from a year and three months of distance learning, teachers will do a COVID-19 debriefing with students during the first week of school to help get them acclimated back into the school building,” says Brent Shropshire, Bartow County School System’s Director or Counselors, College Readiness, Wellness and Fine Arts. “School counselors will also have a Trauma 101 Training prior to the start of the school year to help them recognize signs of trauma a student may have experienced during their time away from the school building.”