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How to Plan 2020 Back-to-School During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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August 11, 2020

It’s almost time for back-to-school, but chances are you’re anything but excited. Parents, teachers, and students are having to make tough decisions about what education will even look like this fall. Will everyone meet in a classroom? Online? Some sort of hybrid? Will outbreaks shut everything down before it even gets started? 

Just these few questions reveal just how tough it is to plan for 2020 back-to-school right now. While we can offer no definitive answers, and things will likely change in the coming months, we can provide ideas for navigating this strange and challenging time. 

CDC Guidelines

There has been a big push to reopen schools in the fall. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has even published an article titled “The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools This Fall.” At the same time, many parents and teachers have expressed concern and have worried that full classrooms will result in more COVID-19 outbreaks. 

If you’re on social media, you’ve likely seen plans that vary widely from one school to the next. In fact, your child’s teacher might handle post-pandemic teaching very differently from another teacher in the same school. 

Here are some links to COVID-19 guidance and recommendations from the CDC:

There’s a lot of reading, but these are valuable resources as you weigh your plan for school in the fall. It’s not a decision that most parents are taking lightly, and every course of action feels flawed. By being informed, you’ll be better able to make the choice that’s right for your family. 

Back-to-School Gear

Shopping for the upcoming school year is going to look different in 2020. In addition to the typical supplies — from glue sticks to notebooks — you normally buy, you’ll likely be asked to stock up on the following:

  • Face masks
  • Face shield
  • Gloves
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfectant wipes

As mentioned, every school is handling this in its own way, so the best thing you can do is reach out for guidance. Ask for a detailed checklist of items your child will need and discuss any concerns with their teacher. 


A growing number of parents have chosen to educate their children at home in recent years, and that number will likely increase exponentially in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Most public schools across the country ended the school year with virtual classes, and as a result, homeschoolers have more resources than ever. 

Suddenly, parents interested in this option aren’t having to scour the internet for support. In many cases, their child’s school or school district are offering virtual classes as an option (or the only option). If homeschooling is what makes you most comfortable, start doing your research right away and find an online community of parents and/or educators to be ready for the fall.

Field Trips

For years, field trips have been an important part of the school experience for kids. Not only do they get a break from the classroom, but they often get the opportunity to have an immersive and enriching experience. Your child’s school probably won’t be scheduling any field trips, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy one anyway. 

YouTube is a great way to waste a lot of time, but it’s also a valuable tool for distance learning. Many zoos, aquariums, planetariums, museums, and more have virtual field trips that you can explore for free! Some even offer live demonstrations and limited-size classes for a more interactive experience. 

Socializing From Home

One of the things that have concerned parents, as well as medical and mental health professionals, is the lack of socialization that is happening for kids right now. Even if they do return to the classroom, they may be expected to maintain their distance, refrain from sharing toys and supplies, and will be interacting while wearing face masks. 

It’s not the same as being in-person, but consider doing daily virtual playdates with other kids. There are even classes, such as those offered by Outschool, that friends can sign up to do together. If you’re homeschooling and know other families who are homeschooling, you could explore the option of organizing meetups if everyone is comfortable with each other’s safety practices. 

Have a Plan for Back to School

Finally, one of the most important things you can do is prepare for the unexpected. It’s a lot easier said than done, but it’s entirely worth the effort. There are a lot of unknowns about our lives right now, so do your research surrounding these situations:

  • What if your school isn’t making any effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19? What steps will you take?
  • Who will care for your child if an outbreak cancels classes or they become sick if you have to work?
  • Where can you get tested in your area?
  • Have you gone over the rules for attending class?
  • Does your child know the symptoms of COVID-19?

Of course, you also want to prepare your child for the year ahead. Keep them in the loop as much as possible and appropriate for their age group. We don’t want to scare our children, but we do need to have frank conversations during these unprecedented times. 

Most importantly, give yourself some grace. This is so hard and every decision is going to feel like the wrong one. We’re all figuring this out together, and no one has all the answers (despite what your social media feed might suggest). Stay flexible, vigilant, and informed and lean on other parents for support. We need each other!

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