Many parents, caregivers, and guardians face new and difficult choices about how their child will return to school in the fall, such as deciding between in-person and virtual learning.
This tool is designed to help parents, caregivers, and guardians weigh the risks and benefits of available educational options to help them make decisions about sending their child back to school. It is organized to provide parents and caregivers with:
- Information on COVID-19 and why safely reopening schools is so critical.
- Tools to:
- Help you assess your child’s and your family’s risk of COVID-19;
- Consider factors that will help you make a choice, if offered, of instructional format (e.g. virtual, in person, or a hybrid option); and
- Prepare for the school year, regardless of format.
For many families, back to school planning will look different this year than it has in previous years. Your school will have new policies in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You may also be starting the school year with virtual learning components. Whatever the situation, these checklists are intended to help parents, guardians, and caregivers, plan and prepare for the upcoming school year.
Some of the changes in schools’ classroom attendance or structure may include:
- Cohorts: Dividing students and teachers into distinct groups that stay together throughout an entire school day during in-person classroom instruction. Schools may allow minimal or no interaction between cohorts (also sometimes referred to as pods).
- Hybrid: A mix of virtual learning and in-class learning. Hybrid options can apply a cohort approach to the in-class education provided.
- Virtual/at-home only: Students and teachers engage in virtual-only classes, activities, and events.
Deciding between in-person and virtual learning?
Related: See our decision tool to help you think through school re-entry and the choices that your child’s school is offering:
Planning for in-person classes
Going back to school this fall will require schools and families to work together even more than before. Schools will be making changes to their policies and operations with several goals: supporting learning; providing important services, such as school meals, extended daycare, extracurricular activities, and social services; and limiting the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Teachers and staff can teach and encourage preventive behaviors at school. Likewise, it will be important for families to emphasize and model healthy behaviors at home and to talk to your children about changes to expect this school year. Even if your child will attend school in-person, it is important to prepare for the possibility of virtual learning if school closes or if your child becomes exposed to COVID-19 and needs to stay home.
CDC has created a checklist to help with back to school planning for school year (SY) 2020-2021. If your school uses a hybrid model, you may want to review both the in-person and virtual/at-home learning checklists.
In-Person Learning Checklist (PDF version)
Planning for virtual or at-home learning
Virtual learning may be a choice or part of a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan for some children and families, and it may be necessary if your child has certain underlying health conditions or is immunocompromised. In a hybrid model, learning may occur virtually during part of the week and occur in-person for the rest. Or, the school year may start with virtual learning but switch to in-person learning for the remainder or certain times of the school year. Going back to school virtually may pose additional challenges with staying connected to peers, since students may have less frequent or no in-person interactions to each other. You may want to talk to school staff to learn more about what they are doing to support connection among students, interactive learning with feedback, building resilience, and social-emotional wellbeing for students who will not be onsite. In addition, if your child receives speech, occupational, or physical therapy or other related services from the school, ask your school how these services will continue during virtual at-home learning. Likewise, if your child receives mental health or behavioral services (e.g., social skills training, counseling), ask your school how these services will continue during virtual at-home learning.
Virtual or At-Home Learning Checklist (PDF version)
Resources to navigate stress and uncertainty
Below are governmental and non-governmental resources that can help parents, guardians, and caregivers navigate stress and uncertainty and to build resilience for you and your children heading into the school year.
- CDC Stress and Coping During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- CDC Parent Portal
- CDC Children’s Mental Health
- Bullying Prevention Resourcesexternal icon
- Children and Youth with Special Healthcare Needs in Emergencies
Exit notification/disclaimer policy
- Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) SEL Resources and Guidelines for Educators, Parents, and Caregivers)external icon
- Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools Resources for Schools and Families Impacted by COVID-19external icon
- Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network)external icon
- Resources for Helping Kids and Parents Cope Amidst COVID-19 (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)
- CDC recommends that people wear masks in public and when around people who don’t live in your household.
- Masks should NOT be worn by children under age 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- Do NOT use a mask meant for a healthcare worker. Currently, surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.
Wear your Mask Correctly
- Wash your hands before putting on your mask
- Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
- Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face
- Make sure you can breathe easily
- CDC does not recommend use of masks or cloth masks for source control if they have an exhalation valve or vent
Wear a Mask to Protect Others
- Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to help protect others in case you’re infected with COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms
- Wear a mask in public settings when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when it may be difficult for you to stay six feet apart
- Wear a mask correctly for maximum protection
- Don’t put the mask around your neck or up on your forehead
- Don’t touch the mask, and, if you do, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to disinfect
Follow Everyday Health Habits
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others
- Avoid contact with people who are sick
- Wash your hands often, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds each time
- Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
Take Off Your Mask Carefully, When You’re Home
- Untie the strings behind your head or stretch the ear loops
- Handle only by the ear loops or ties
- Fold outside corners together
- Place mask in the washing machine (learn more about how to wash masks)
- Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing and wash hands immediately after removing.
Planning for hurricane season and other potential disasters can be stressful, and because the 2020 hurricane season comes during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, it may be especially so.
Public health and emergency response professionals have advice to help you safely prepare, evacuate, and shelter for severe storms while protecting yourself and others from COVID-19. Here are some tips to help you and your family stay safe during hurricane season this year.
- Understand that your planning may be different this year because of the need to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
- Give yourself more time than usual to prepare your emergency food, water, and medicine supplies. Home delivery is the safest choice for buying disaster supplies; however, that may not be an option for everyone. If in-person shopping is your only choice, take steps to protect your and others’ health when running essential errands.
- Protect yourself and others when filling prescriptions by limiting in-person visits to the pharmacy. Sign up for mail order delivery or call in your prescription ahead of time and use drive-through windows or curbside pickup, if available.
- Pay attention to local guidance about updated plans for evacuations and shelters, including shelters for your pets.
- When you check on neighbors and friends, be sure to follow social distancing recommendations (staying at least 6 feet from others) and other CDC recommendations to protect yourself and others.
- If you may need to evacuate, prepare a “go kit” with personal items you cannot do without during an emergency. Include items that can help protect you and others from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, bar or liquid soap, disinfectant wipes (if available) and two masks for each person. Masks should not be used by children under the age of 2. They also should not be used by people having trouble breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- Know a safe place to shelter and have several ways to receive weather alerts, such as National Weather Service cell phone alertsexternal icon, NOAA Weather Radioexternal icon, or (@NWS) Twitter alerts.
- Find out if your local public shelter is open, in case you need to evacuate your home and go there. Your shelter location may be different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- If you need to go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Follow guidance from your local public health or emergency management officials on when and where to shelter.
- Make a plan and prepare a disaster kit for your pets. Find out if your disaster shelter will accept pets. Typically, when shelters accommodate pets, the pets are housed in a separate area from people.
If you will be staying with friends or family outside your household to evacuate from the storm:
- Talk to the people you plan to stay with about how you can all best protect yourselves from COVID-19.
- Consider if either of your households has someone who is at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, including older adults or people of any age who have underlying medical conditions. Make sure everyone knows what they can do to keep them safe from COVID-19.
- Follow everyday preventive actions, including covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands often, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Consider taking extra precautions for people living in close quarters.
- Know what to do if someone in your family or in the household you are staying with becomes sick with COVID-19. Take steps to keep your pets safe.
In addition to following guidance for staying safe and healthy after a hurricane, note that:
- You should continue to follow preventive actions to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, like washing your hands and wearing a mask during cleanup or when returning home.
- It may take longer than usual to restore power and water if they are out. Take steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning if you use a generator.
- If you are injured or ill, contact your medical provider for treatment recommendations. Keep wounds clean to prevent infection. Remember, accessing medical care may be more difficult than usual during the pandemic.
- Dealing with disasters can cause stress and strong emotions, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is natural to feel anxiety, grief, and worry. Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family, and your community recover.
- People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. Additional information can be found at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrationexternal icon page.
- After a hurricane, it’s not unusual for rats, mice, and other pests to try to get into your home or building. Be aware that with restaurant and commercial closures related to COVID-19, there are already reports of increased rodent activity as they try to seek other sources of food. Follow recommendations for keeping pests out of your home.