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Back to School Safety During A Pandemic

Every year around August we write a blog about the importance of safety when the new school year starts. Like everything else, 2020 is going to once again prove to be different from all the other years prior. The Covid-19/Coronavirus pandemic is far from gone and the current state of the virus moving forward is very unpredictable. The idea of opening up schools has been a tremendous debate among Americans all summer, and has been very stressful for a lot of parents as to whether they are comfortable with their kids going back to school.

Ultimately, New York is on-track to reopen this fall . Governor Cuomo concluded that the infection rate in the state of New York is low enough across all regions to make that decision. Opening the schools means that the school should maintain the guidelines presented by the DOH and the CDC. In theory, following these guidelines means that even if a student attended the class while being infected with the Covid-19 virus, it would not spread to other students and faculty. As a result, many school districts throughout Long Island and New York State are varied in what options they present to the students in their district. Some schools are open but splitting up the student attendance with A and B days to reduce the number of students in the building on a given day. Others schools have decided to open full time. Others are opening up, but still giving the option to parents to continue with virtual learning instead. Whatever circumstances you and your children may have in September, these safety guidelines can be beneficial for everyone.

Stress the Importance of Cooperation to Your Children

The school year has brought a lot of stress to a lot of parents due to the pandemic. The fact of the matter is children may not be as careful in spreading germs as adults. They may also be too young to grasp the seriousness of the pandemic, and how it can impact others. School districts are implementing strict guidelines to counteract this, but cooperation is going to be essential for students in order to prevent further spread.

If you are a parent whose child is going back to school, it is vital to have a conversation about following along with these guidelines. Emphasize the need to listen to their teachers and other faculty members. Explain to them the importance of social distancing from their friends, and wearing their mask when instructed. Make sure they know not to share snacks, and avoid contact with other kids. If other kids are not respecting your child keeping a safe distance, encourage them to speak to an adult.

Create a Good Environment For Online Learning

Many students are still doing part-time or full time virtual learning. The last quarter of the previous school year was very difficult for students, parents, and teachers alike. No one was prepared or expecting a pandemic this year, so understandably many struggled with the sudden change in medium for learning.

This year, teachers are able to be much more prepared for virtual learning and parents can help their kids get a better experience out of it this coming school year. You would want to maintain a consistent schedule with your child, reduce distractions, but still give them brain breaks and some time dedicated for interacting with friends. USA Today wrote a great article about how to create a positive learning environment for kids who are virtual learning.

For Drivers

We don’t know the current situation with students taking busses in the fall. It is another tricky situation with balancing the risks of the virus with the circumstances of the families in the area. At the end of the day, it is probably likely that some schools will be providing the public transportation for kids. Typically when the school year starts, there is a big increase in traffic. It is possible that the same will be the case this year. It is imperative that drivers are aware of all traffic laws concerning schools and busses. These laws are very often neglected or willfully ignored. Sadly, one in five children under 15 who were killed in a traffic accident were pedestrians.

Be observant. Look out for young pedestrians in the morning and afternoon. Take extra caution when around school zones, playgrounds and residential areas. Always slow down when approaching a crosswalk at a school zone.

Observe School Zone Speed Limit. Children are the most unpredictable pedestrians you can encounter. There is a reason why schools have lower speed limits. It is the driver’s responsibility to follow these posted school zone speed limits. Students could be crossing the streets in these areas for a number of reasons, and there might not be a crosswalk present to guide them. The last thing you would want is to be speeding when a kid runs across the street without warning.

Stop for Buses. When the stop sign on the bus is out, that means drivers on both sides of the road need to stay stopped until the sign has retreated. Give plenty of space for kids to cross the street to board the bus. Even after the bus has left, wait a couple of seconds or move slowly down the street. Sometimes when a kid is late for the bus they might run across the street without paying attention to try to catch the bus.

Leave earlier. Even though traffic is lighter these days, we are probably already accustomed to it, so be prepared for an increase in traffic and leave earlier. Drivers have no problem obeying traffic laws when there is no rush. But when traffic causes possible lateness at work or other appointments, that is when drivers begin to make poor decisions. Rather than putting yourself in the stressful situation that you are running late due to school traffic, prepare earlier so you are not tempted to rush. Make the necessary adjustments and leave your home early enough to be ready if school buses and increased traffic cause delays.

Teach Your Kids Pedestrian Safety

If your son or daughter walks to school every day it is very important that you teach them the proper pedestrian safety so that they can prevent dangerous situations. Distraction is the biggest problem with pedestrian safety, and this is especially true for kids. Statistically, teenagers have a higher risk of getting a fatal pedestrian injury the older they are . The main cause of this involves these teens being distracted while they are walking.

If your child is walking to school, once again remind them of the importance of social distancing and wearing a mask, especially if they are walking with other friends.

Who knows what the status for school districts will be in a few months time. The decisions being made are likely dynamic, and cooperation from everyone will ultimately be key to hopefully reduce and prevent a second wave of this disruptive pandemic while still providing a positive learning experience for students.

About the Author

Steven Palermo is the managing partner for Palermo Law, Long Island’s Personal Injury Law Firm. He has been helping people receive compensation for their injuries for over 21 years. He focuses on cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents and slip and fall injuries.

His book The Ultimate Guide to Handling New York Car Accident Claims details the ins and outs of a car accident claim in a simple, easy-to-read manner.