This year returning to school is very different than in the past. Most parents and caregivers have been faced with choices about how their child will return to school this fall. The Otter Tail County Public Health department is here to assist parents, caregivers, students, and staff as they return to a new school year.

Otter Tail County Public Health has been actively working with school districts across the county to support a healthy start to the new school year. According to Otter Tail County Public Health Director Jody Lien, “It continues to be important that everyone, staff, students, families, young and old alike, follow prevention measures to minimize their personal risk of acquiring the virus, as well as protecting those around us who may be more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19.” It is important to encourage and engage all members of the community to practice COVID-19 prevention measures. Implementing effective mitigation strategies will support our schools’ reopening as well as help them stay open.

When planning for the upcoming school year, there are many things for families to think about. Otter Tail County Public Health recommends a few steps to take prior to the first day of school:

  • Make sure children are up-to-date with all recommended vaccines; including the influenza vaccine. School-aged children should get an influenza vaccine every season. This is especially important this year as influenza and COVID-19 will both be present.
  • Parents should talk to their children about the ways in which school may be different this year. Perhaps students will eat lunch in the classroom, desks may be farther apart, teachers may be social distancing and may have Plexiglass sneeze guards on their desks, and/or they may no longer be riding a bus.
  • Plan for a morning routine that includes monitoring children for signs of illness.
  • Learn about masking and practice with children when social distancing is not an option. Wearing a mask will take some getting used to by young people. Have multiple masks on hand.
  • Practice good hand washing. Getting into a routine of washing hands often and regularly will help reduce the spread of germs.
  • Be mindful of resources families may need to help parents and their children adjust to the unexpected disruptions in daily life at school. Support is available for mental health and wellbeing.

Going back to school this fall means all of us will have to work together even more than before. Parents, caregivers, teachers, and school nurses can teach and encourage preventive behaviors at school. It will be important for families to model healthy behaviors at home and to continue to talk to children about changes to expect this school year.

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Please visit ottertailcountymn.us/public-health/ for many back-to-school resources.