Importance of health, safety protocols for kids as they head back to school

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EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As students embark on a new school year, it is important for kids to understand the new health and safety protocols as they head back to the classroom.

R.I. Department of Health Medical Director Dr. James McDonald sat down with 12 News and says for the youngest students, coming up with a simple three-step plan is key to keeping these kids safe.

It all begins at home before they head to the bus stop, by teaching them what the new normal looks like.

“We are teaching them that we wear a mask now, that’s really important. We are also teaching them ‘here is some hand sanitizer I am putting in your backpack because this is your personal little washing station throughout the day,'” McDonald continued. “When you get to school, you are going to see that entering school has a certain pattern to it. You go in a certain door, you walk a certain way.”

McDonald says that simplifying the day for students is helpful for these kids on how to adapt to a school day that will feel much different this year, especially the social distance component in the classroom.

“It’s hard to teach a five-year-old to stay six feet away, but every five-year-old knows how to jump right?” McDonald said. “So if you can get to a friend within two jumps you are too close.”

When it comes to getting the little ones to and from school on the bus, McDonald has some pointers to keep kids calm when they experience a new feeling on board.

“There will be assigned seats, there won’t be as many people in each seat,” he said. “When you get off the bus, the people in the front will exit first. That’s just so we don’t cross each other.”

McDonald also stresses the importance of asking your students questions before and after school about how they feel physically and to make sure they have a daily routine at home after the school day ends.

“I would first wash my hands no matter what happens, with soap or hand sanitizer, I would probably take my mask off because you don’t have to wear a mask in your household,” he said. “The other thing I would do is talk to your folks about your day and how you feel.”

For elementary school-aged students, McDonald says keeping things fun and light should also be an integral part of the school experience.

If you have an older elementary school student, McDonald says it is important for them to set a good example for the younger ones — wearing their masks throughout the day and reaching out to new or young students to make them feel comfortable.

Back to School coverage all this week on 12 News Now This Morning

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