Preparing to Return to In-Person School

Children are starting school and there may be an anticipated excitement or reluctance to attend in-person school. We know that children benefit cognitively, socially, and physically from in-person education, but there may still be a sense of unease and uncertainty due to COVID-19 and the Delta variant.  If your child is 12 years of age or older and eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, the best protection against COVID-19 is to be vaccinated. Check with your child’s primary care provider or local public health department to schedule an appointment for vaccination.

Here are some tips to try to make the transition to in-person school easier and safer.

Plan ahead and communicate with your child’s school staff:
  • Identify the school administrator who is responsible for the COVID-19 health and safety protocols
  • Set up a communication plan with your child’s teacher
  • Check-in about changes in daily schedules including daily routines, meals, recess and classroom configurations
  • Plan for transportation to and from school
  • Identify who to notify if your child is sick and unable to attend school
  • Create backup care plans if your child gets sick
  • Know where to get a local COVID-19 test if needed
  • Ensure that your child is up to date with all recommended immunizations for their age group
  • Have multiple masks that you can wash daily and give to your child to take to school
Establish healthy routines at home:
  • Set a consistent bedtime routine and time for going to bed
  • Limit screen time
  • Create a school calendar with your child to be prepared for new daily schedule, holidays, and special occasions
  • Include handwashing as a daily routine before and after school
  • Washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water
  • Using a hand sanitizer if running water is not available
  • Wearing a mask and taking the mask on and off
  • Staying apart by being physically distant from non-household members
Supplies for your child to bring to school:
  • Labeled reusable water bottle
  • Bottle of hand sanitizer
  • Extra masks
  • Resealable bag or container for masks
  • Tissues
  • School supplies, as required by your child’s school
Talk about worries and anxieties:
  • Talk about new school routines with your child
  • Let your child know that their school environment may look different with desks apart and teachers keeping a physical distance
  • Check-in often and talk with your child about how they feel about returning to in-person school
  • Recognize that there will be an adjustment period
  • Model self-care skills and good hygiene practices
Check with Your child’s school about classroom COVID-19 measures such as:
  • Daily health screenings
  • Mask wearing
  • Physical distancing
  • Handwashing protocols
  • Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting
  • Ventilation

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021) Know What to Expect at Your Child's K-12 School or Early Care and Education Program at

California Childcare Health Program (2021) When should I Keep My Child Home from Child Care/School- Quick Screening Guide for COVID-19 at

U.S. Department of Education (2021) Return to School Roadmap: A Resource for Parents on Returning to In-Person Learning at

August 2021, UCSF California Childcare Health Program

This article was made possible with funding from the UCSF Chancellor's Fund.