Back to School During COVID-19

Mid-August is the time when many Georgia schools reopen for the new school year. With children having participated in “remote learning” since March due to the novel coronavirus, the prospect of going back to school is bringing up questions in parents’ minds.

When it comes to returning to the classroom, parents are asking, “is it safe?” At the same time, children staying home for remote learning brings its own problems. How are households with two working parents going to accommodate their children staying home? Another question on the minds of parents is whether or not real learning is taking place outside of the traditional classroom environment.

Anxieties and uncertainties abound at the start of the school year, no matter what schools are doing to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Some schools are attempting to “socially distance” desks in classrooms and require students to wear masks. Others are limiting the number of students in the classroom or on campus. To do this, schools around the country are adopting a “hybrid” learning system including both virtual and in-person instruction. This is how it works: While half the student body is at home on the computer, the other half will be on a limited-capacity campus.

It seems that all solutions are met with fierce criticism by those fearful of a “second wave” of COVID-19, as well as those who believe the threat has passed. Going back to school during COVID-19 is bringing up questions about schools’ liability when it comes to welcoming students back to campus. Will children and faculty who contract the virus be able to hold the schools liable for their illnesses?

Can I sue the school if my child contracts COVID-19?

The short answer is, “no.” The law functions based on precedent, or the decisions of previous cases. Many flu-like illnesses have been spread in public spaces through contact or lack of cleanliness procedures before, yet no one has successfully sued an institution for getting sick on their premises. The obvious reason why is that it is impossible to prove exactly where, when, and how you contracted an illness.

That being said, the COVID-19 pandemic and the government response to it is certainly unprecedented. Many wonder whether class-action lawsuits against school boards by large groups of students would gain traction and prove successful.

Another question regarding a school’s liability is this: what qualifies as negligence? In a personal injury lawsuit, the defendant needs to be proven negligent in their actions or lack thereof. Typically, these are defined. In a car accident case, texting while driving would qualify as negligence and assign a certain percentage of fault to that driver.

What safety procedures, cleanliness standards, and more must schools abide by to be free from a negligence charge? These are things that have not been defined by any prior litigation or laws.

While schools are undergoing major adjustments to abide by government guidelines, the virus’ spread cannot be completely contained. In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus this school year, parents should encourage their kids to take the following actions.

What you can encourage your child to do to stay healthy this fall:

1. Wear a Mask

Many jokes have spread across the Internet about the idea of younger children having to wear masks. It seems there might not be anything more difficult for a young, active child to do than to keep a mask on their face and their hands at their side. Parents should try to make wearing a mask fun for their child.

Companies are now manufacturing superhero masks, masks with illustrated animal noses, and more. If your child loves tigers or Superman, investing in a mask to match their personality may encourage them to wear the mask.

2. Wash Your Hands

Washing hands is often a chore for young children. At home, parents should lead by example and show their children how they wash their hands when coming home, before eating, and after using the restroom.

Parents should ask their children whether they washed their hands before dinner in order to reinforce this habit at home. That way, a child will be more likely to practice hand-washing at school.

3. Carry a To-Go Hand Sanitizer

For times when your child isn’t able to go to the restroom, such as during class, they should be given a small to-go hand sanitizer.

Hand sanitizer keychains are a great choice for children because they won’t get lost.

4. Clean Your Clothes

Coronavirus can live on surfaces such as clothing for days. When your child comes home from school, doing laundry is a good idea to minimize exposure to the virus in your home.

5. Come Home if You Feel Sick

The most important thing is to ensure your child communicates with you about any symptoms of illness, even if minor. Sore throats, fever, and fatigue are all reasons to suspect your child is sick. Take your child to get a coronavirus test if they begin to exhibit coronavirus symptoms.

Even if not coronavirus, illnesses of any kind weaken a person’s immune system. Therefore, it is important to keep your child home if they feel sick.

6. Get Your Vitamin D

Allow your kids to play outside and get sun. Staying inside 24/7 is not healthy, and a daily dose of vitamin D can help protect against illness.

Going back to school during COVID-19 will require a lot of adjusting, but the collective effort of our communities will help us get past the pandemic.