COVID-19: A Parent Guide for School-Aged Children
Along with many areas around the world, the Commonwealth of Virginia is experiencing an expanding outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This virus can spread from person-to-person, and the number of diagnosed cases is growing. Accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19 is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) dedicated websites.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Symptoms of COVID-19 include: fever, cough and shortness of breath. Parents should remain vigilant and observe their children for COVID-19 symptoms. If your child experiences these symptoms, contact your local health department or health care provider. Your doctor will decide if your child needs to be tested or be seen in person. Parents are encouraged to contact their doctor prior to an office visit in order to reduce viral transmission to others. Please note that individuals who are mildly ill may not need to be tested and should isolate (keep away from other people) and be taken care of at home.
Positively diagnosed or students exposed to COVID-19 will receive information from VDH or their health care provider regarding management of this condition.
Exposure to COVID-19
If you or your child have been in close contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19, follow VDH advice. The VDH recommends that you self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of the potential contact and monitor your health. For additional questions about staying home or monitoring your health, call 877-ASK-VDH3 (877-275-8343). If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when you are sick.
Helping Your Child to be Resilient
Children may be anxious and will look to adults for guidance on concerns about COVID-19. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provide helpful resources for parents on talking to their children about COVID-19. Teaching children positive preventive measures, talking with them about their fears, and giving them a sense of some control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety. Specific guidelines include:
- Maintain a normal routine to the extent possible.
- Discuss new practices with your child to include activities that improve emotional health such as taking walks, calling a friend, exploring online educational or cultural opportunities, or creating an art project.
- Practice and model basic hygiene and healthy lifestyle practices.
- Be honest and accurate while remaining calm, easing fears and reassuring for your child.
- Limit exposure to news and media stories that may be upsetting.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer additional tips for managing stress and anxiety. Additional coronavirus resources and tips for parents, children, and others are available from Prevent Child Abuse America for staying connected, engaged as a family, and managing stress and anxiety.
To prevent the spread in communities, the CDC recommends households protect themselves and others by social distancing, which is avoiding large gatherings and maintaining distance (about 6 feet) from others when possible. School closures are one form of social distancing. Children and families are also encouraged to practice social distancing in their daily lives while schools are closed. The CDC offers tips to keep kids healthy while school is out. Social distancing means remaining out of
- Public places where close contact with others may occur (such as shopping centers, movie theaters, stadiums);
- Workplaces (unless the person works in an office space that allows distancing from others);
- Schools and other classroom settings;
- Local public transportation (such as on a bus, subway, taxi, rideshare, plane, ship).
The American Psychological Association (APA) offers information about social distancing, the differences between quarantine and isolation, and ways to get the social support you need. For social distancing to be effective, parents are encouraged to limit playdates and activities to those where distance can be maintained from each other to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.
Planning for potential self-quarantines or social distancing will save time, frustration, and anxiety for parents. It will also help children feel comforted and prepared for changes to their normal routine. This preparedness checklist-This is a PDF document. will help parents take steps to lessen the impact of a severe coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on their family. Many of these steps are good advice to help families during any disaster, like an earthquake or flood.
Cleaning Recommendations for the Home
Family members can practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks) with household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface, following label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product, including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure there is good ventilation during use of the product. The CDC provides additional guidance on home cleaning and disinfection of households.
Child Care for Essential Personnel
Parents and families who are in search of child care for essential personnel, which is currently permitted under the Governor’s current order, can find more information on the Child Care Aware website.
While social distancing is important to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it is also resulting in limited work for some individuals and families, which can lead to financial insecurity. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has created a guide to coping in hard times, which helps parents understand how economic difficulties can affect their families, including their sense of safety, connectedness, and hope. Project HOPE-Virginia’s Resources for Families in Crisis page contains resources for families experiencing a housing crisis or in need of food, as well as resources for other mental health and safety needs.”
What Parents Can Expect from Schools
Governor Ralph Northam ordered all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for the remainder of the academic year in response to the continued spread of COVID-19. Localities will maintain authority over specific staffing decisions to ensure students maintain continuity of services or learning, while protecting the public health of teachers and staff.
The VDOE has issued guidance to Virginia school divisions regarding COVID-19 via Superintendent’s memos, emails, webinar, and links to resources. These communications are available on the VDOE’s COVID-19 and Virginia Public Schools webpage. In an effort to support Virginia educators, VDOE created the Continuity for Learning (C4L) Task Force consisting of teachers, leaders, and collaborating educational partners across Virginia. The C4L Task Force has prepared Virginia Learns Anywhere which reinforces much-needed structure while also empowering individual teachers to support students in learning remotely. The C4L Task Force encourages divisions to develop and implement continuous learning plans in partnership with local county health departments, families, staff, and local boards of education.
The VDOE has been awarded a waiver from the USDA to approve waivers to allow school divisions to provide meals in non-congregate settings due to COVID-19. Parents and families can find sites approved for meal service on the School Meal Finder website (this information is continually updated and additional details with their school division). Families can also text “food” or “comida” to 877-877 to learn more about food options near them.
Graduation Requirements, Credits, and Continuity of Learning
The VDOE has thoughtfully considered the impact on local school divisions and students as a result of extended school closures. Ultimately local school divisions will make decisions about exactly how learning is continued for students. VDOE has issued Guidance on Graduation Requirements, Awarding of Credits, and Continuity of Learning that addresses students graduating in the 2019-2020 school year, students enrolled in high school credit bearing courses graduating in 2020-2021 and after, and students in grades K-8 and students in preschool. This guidance focuses on alternative pathways to demonstrate learning and a focus on ensuring students are equitably prepared for success in subsequent courses.
Grading and Grade Point Averages
VDOE recognizes that grade calculations and GPA are a local policy issue. Some schools may choose variations of finalizing students’ grades. VDOE recommends that school divisions establish a methodology to fairly calculate grades based on work previously completed and a methodology for including said grades in GPA calculations and on student transcripts. VDOE also recommends that if a school division decides to offer letter grades on an individual basis, no letter grade should be lower than the student’s grade on March 13, 2020.
Learning at Home
Parents and families can support students’ thinking and learning during extended school closures.
- Collaborate with your child to organize the day to include time for learning, activities and exercise.
- Read to and with your child and have conversations about what you have read together.
- Take a walk and ask about what your child is seeing and about being a good citizen.
- Encourage critical thinking through cooking together or planning a garden.
- Encourage conversations about mathematics in your child’s day.
- Explore your child’s creativity by creating art, music, or dance.
- Write a letter to a family member or friend or community hero.
- Be mindful of screen time and have alternatives for children to play outside.
- Listen to your child about his or her feelings and fears and offer comfort, honesty, and reassurance.
The VDOE encourages you to review resources provided by your local school division, public libraries, public media, civic and community groups, and other resources, including those found on the Department’s website - search for "families" or visit the VDOE For Families webpage. Resources such as Activities for Kids While Schools Are Closed-This is a PDF document. and Free Audibles for Kids can help keep children active and engaged while schools are closed.
Students with Disabilities
If a school closure causes educational services for all students to pause within a school or division, then the school/division is generally not required to provide services to the affected students eligible for special education services during that same period of time. If a school division does begin to offer instructional services by alternative means (e.g. e-learning, distance learning), the division will remain responsible for the free appropriate public education (FAPE) of its students eligible for special education services with an individualized education program (IEP). The division should ensure that the provision of services are inclusive of both special education and related services.
Once school resumes, the school must return to providing special education and related services to students with disabilities in accordance with the student’s IEP, or for students entitled to FAPE under Section 504, consistent with any plan developed to meet the requirements of Section 504. Additionally, after an extended closure, divisions are responsible for reviewing how the closure impacted the delivery of special education and related services to students eligible for special education services. Additional specific guidance will be provided to division-level special education directors.
The VDOE Department of Special Education and Student Services offers a monthly Engage Your Family Newsletter with information and resources especially for families of students with disabilities. To subscribe to this newsletter, go to the VDOE Subscriber Preferences webpage, and when prompted at step three, click “Information for Parents and Families.”
Bullying and Harassment
COVID-19 is not at all connected to race, ethnicity, or nationality. School staff should be mindful that bullying, intimidation, or harassment of students based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, or disability (including the actual disability of being infected with COVID-19 or perception of being infected) may result in a violation of state and federal civil rights laws. School divisions must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate what occurred when responding to reports of bullying or harassment. If parents and families believe their child has experienced bullying, harassment, or intimidation related to the COVID-19 outbreak, they should contact the school principal or division superintendent. Parents can help their child prevent COVID-19 related stigma and racism.
Federal and State Testing
On March 23, 2020, Governor Northam ordered all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for the remainder of the academic year as a response to the continued spread of COVID-19. As such, the administration of the SOL tests, the local scoring and score entry requirements for the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program, and the administration of the ACCESS for ELs assessment for English Learners are suspended.
- The College Board is canceling the May 2 and June 6, 2020, SAT administration. Registered students will receive refunds.
- Beginning in August, the College Board will provide weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of the calendar year. This includes a new administration in September and the previously scheduled tests on August 29, October 3, November 7, and December 5.
For more information, please visit the College Board website.
- ACT’s will offer a flexible schedule for summer 2020 test dates. Students will be allowed to reschedule, without change fees, for June 13 to June 20 and for July 18 to July 25 test dates. Students may also make free test date changes from the June to the July national test date.
- ACT will launch the test-at-home option in late fall/early winter 2020 as part of its national testing program. In addition to three previously planned fall/winter 2020 national test dates in September, October, and December, ACT will also offer a remote proctoring option for the ACT test, allowing students to take the test at their home on a computer. The fee waivers that ACT provides to students from low-income homes will apply to the at-home test option, and ACT is considering other ways to address access and equity issues. More details about the remote proctoring option will be available in the coming weeks.
The College Board is providing information that outlines an alternative plan for AP testing review and administration.
- The College Board is providing free remote learning resources to students by AP teachers beginning on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
- Traditional face-to-face exam administrations will not take place. Students will take a 45-minute online free-response exam at home that will only include topics and skills that most AP teachers and students covered by early March. Colleges support this solution and are committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they have worked this year to earn. For decades, colleges have accepted a shortened AP Exam for college credit when groups of students have experienced emergencies.
- Students will be able to take these streamlined exams on any device they have access to—computer, tablet, or smartphone. Taking a photo of handwritten work will also be an option. In late April, the College Board will provide students with information on how to access the testing system on test day and video demonstrations so that students can familiarize themselves with the system.
- Exams will be given from May 11 through May 22. Make-up test dates will be available for each subject from June 1 through June 5. Each subject’s exam will be taken on the same day at the same time, worldwide.
- The College Board will continue to support students with free resources through exam day. While students are encouraged to wait until closer to the test date to decide, any student already registered for an exam can choose to cancel at no charge.
- The College Board recognizes that the digital divide could prevent some low-income and rural students from participating. Working with partners, they will invest so that these students have the tools and connectivity they need to review AP content online and take the exam. If your students need mobile tools or connectivity, you can reach out to them directly to let them know.
- The full AP exam schedule, specific free-response question types that will be on each AP Exam, and additional testing details are available on the College Board website.
For more information, please visit the AP Updates for Schools Impacted by Coronavirus webpage.
The Virginia Department of Health has also established a call center to address questions from the public about COVID-19. The Virginia Department of Health has also activated a public information line, 877-ASK-VDH3, for questions from residents about COVID-19 can be emailed to email@example.com.