Parents preparing children to return to face-to-face class after a year of pandemic-induced remote learning will need to be ready to deal with uncertainty, said Brittney Schrick, assistant professor and extension family life specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“One of the biggest adjustments for some families will be returning to the classroom full time,” she said. “Many students attended school remotely some or all last year, and quarantine periods due to exposure or sickness may have sent kids back and forth between on-site and virtual class, making routines difficult.

“One of the benefits of on-site learning is the routine,” Schrick said. “Kids thrive in routine, so knowing where they are supposed to be, who else will be there, and what they will be doing from day to day will make the transition back to the classroom easier.”

While the world seemed to be returning to more normal routines in the late spring and early summer, a rise in COVID cases, especially with the Delta and Delta-plus variants, has clouded the future.

Schrick said that “older children who attended school for years before the pandemic will have previous experience to fall back on, but some may feel anxious about returning to school without masks now that they are aware of the risks of illness.”

She advises parents to work with children to find a comfortable solution for them. “It is likely that some schools will allow masks to be worn if parents or children desire,” Schrick said.

“The most important things you can do this year are to mentally prepare your child and yourself for the unknown,” Schrick said. “There may be school closures again, even if only brief ones.

“Preparing yourself so that you are not blindsided can do wonders for your ability to cope with changes,” she said. “Kids take their cues on how to act from the adults around them, so if you are calm and prepared, they will be calm too.”

Schrick said like last year, the precautions or safety protocols put in place in schools will vary widely by school district within the rules outlined by the Arkansas Department of Education and the Department of Health.

“It is unlikely that they will put out any information on their rules until much closer to the beginning of the school year in order to have a better picture of vaccination and infection rates,” she said. “Parents, students, teachers and administrators should be prepared for multiple scenarios.”

Schrick said it’s still important to get those in your household over age 12 vaccinated.

“It is very likely that we will still see some quarantines, especially since kids under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated,” she said.