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School: One Year into the Pandemic

March 8, 2021

As many students make the transition from virtual to in-person learning one year into the pandemic, all parents, and particularly those parents of children with primary immunodeficiencies, feel a higher level of stress and uncertainty.

To address those concerns, IDF offered a recent forum that provided tips and advice for parents to navigate the uncharted waters of education during the pandemic.

Long-time IDF members, educators, and parents to a child diagnosed with common variable immune deficiency (CVID), Valerie and Chris Riley presented “Advocating for Your Child in Today’s Education Setting.

Mrs. Riley, who is also diagnosed with CVID, has worked as a special educator for 28 years and currently teaches children with severe medical needs. Mr. Riley has a 21-year career as an educator, 19 as a teacher, and two as an assistant principal. They both work for districts in Southern California.

It’s important for parents, as well as teachers, to remember that returning to school is a new experience for everyone, they said. Take deep breaths and learn how to relax when challenges arise, said Mrs. Riley.

“There are going to be issues. It’s not if – it’s when they’re going to happen,” she said.

The primary way that parents can alleviate or lessen anxiety about how their children are performing in online school or what school will be like upon returning is to simply communicate with educators. Stay in touch through phone calls or email. Feel empowered to reach out to teachers or school administrators.

Communication is key not only to keeping track of your child’s missed assignments or classes but also to understanding the return-to-school schedule and policies.

“It’s an incredibly stressful time for us. We don’t know what’s going to come next. In the morning, we can get one thing, and by the afternoon, they’re telling us something completely different,” said Mrs. Riley. “So, the important thing is communication.”

Families must also remember that social and emotional health is just as important as academic performance. If a child is suffering due to frustration over online learning, consider letting the student take a short time off.

“Give yourself grace – you might need a break,” said Mrs. Riley.

Currently, school systems all have different instructional models such as fully in-person school, with a rotating or split schedule; hybrid learning in which students have a mix of in-person and online days; and all virtual. Models are different across the country and even within states.

“As a parent, you still have lots of choices. If you’re not comfortable with face-to-face, virtual is not going to go away,” said Mr. Riley.

Parents should also take time to explore the guidelines and criteria for re-opening in their state. Some of the factors affecting re-opening could include: level of Covid-19 outbreak in the area, school size, class size, and staffing ratios. A good place to find that information is the school district website.

“Access that information because if it’s important and pertinent to the education of your children, there’s a very strong possibility that your district already has it posted someplace and that information is readily available to you,” said Mr. Riley.

When children return to school, don’t be surprised by the marked difference in how the school environment looks now compared to pre-pandemic times. School modifications could include:

  • Students and teachers behind plexiglass barriers
  • Students and staff wearing masks
  • Full personal protective equipment
  • Temperature checks multiple times a day
  • Social distancing
  • Different flow of student traffic
  • Extra cleaning
  • Bathroom monitors

Mrs. Riley said gone are the days when classrooms could be made homey with big bean chairs, stuffed animals, and reading nooks. In her school, the administration told teachers to clean out their rooms and keep only the bare minimum of materials available. In her classroom, children will have their own box of sensory items that are not shared with others and are sanitized daily.

“Classrooms aren’t ever going to look the same as they used to,” said Mrs. Riley.

Finally, the Rileys urged parents to take advantage of school resources like counseling for students, technology support, virtual parent class meetings, and virtual re-opening orientations, all of which should be accessible through a district’s website.

Click here to watch the presentation.



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