As a new school year approaches, top on everyone’s minds is what will that “look like,” given the impact of COVID-19 on last year and the summer. The first day of the academic year is scheduled for August 13, 2020, and Frisco Independent School District (FISD) officials are preparing for a variety of contingencies. “More than anything else, we want to start the school year as normal as possible with face-to-face instruction,” said Chief Academic Officer Wes Cunningham. “We miss serving our students and working with our colleagues in the way we know is the best format – with our students in our buildings. However, we have heard from concerned families and staff, and there simply isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.”
Given this fluidity, it is important to plan ahead and prepare as much as possible, to provide students the best possible opportunity to excel and flourish in the new school year. Whether your child is just beginning school for the first time or a seasoned student, a new grade level or school with new teachers, classes and expectations requires an adjustment. Students and parents alike may feel a range of emotions as the back-to-school season quickly approaches. So ease your family’s anxieties by adequately preparing for and setting the tone for the new school year.
Establish Rules and routines
A new school year means a fresh start and transition from your schedule over the break. Even from one school year to the next, it’s smart to reevaluate school year routines and rules. Your kids are a year older and might be in new schools and have new teachers, different schedules or be ready for new responsibilities. So, sit down as a family to discuss rules and expectations while also allowing your child some input. Setting clear expectations ahead of time can help things go more smoothly.
Here are some things you’ll want to determine:
Each person’s responsibilities
A daily schedule
A family calendar for the year, months and weeks.
Different expectations between weekdays and weekends
Screen time restrictions
Rules around playdates or spending time with friends
Homework routines and expectations
When kids need to be awake, eating breakfast and ready to walk out the door
How kids will get to and from school and related expectations
Take safety precautions
Your child’s safety is a significant concern when heading back to school and away from your watchful eye. Travel safety between home and school, whether your kids walk, ride a bike, take the bus, or carpool with another student or family is especially important. So, create a safety plan for your kids before school resumes.
A reliable way to communicate with your child is essential to their safety. Phones are available that are appropriate for kids of all different ages. Just be aware of FISD’s policy regarding devices (can vary campus to campus) and make sure your child abides by the rules. For younger children, screenless devices like the Relay, KidsConnect, or Gizmo Watch are excellent options. These devices are designed specifically for children’s safety and come with features like GPS trackers and the ability to communicate with limited contacts.
Another useful way to protect your kids is to use location tracking apps. If you have older kids with phones, there are many apps for sharing or tracking locations using their phones. Options include GPS tracking or geofencing, where you define a certain perimeter for your child and get notified if your child leaves that area.
Be sure to set expectations that your kids check-in at certain times and before leaving or arriving at a new destination. Also, designate trusted emergency contacts and plans for unexpected events and make sure your child knows who you’ve chosen.
Schedule routine check-ups
Get your child up to date on health screenings, especially vision and hearing tests, before the school year starts. If your child has problems with hearing or vision, it can severely impact their education. Discovering and addressing any issues ahead of time will prevent unnecessary struggles and reduce or eliminate their need for support or accommodations. Young kids often don’t realize they have a fixable problem or are unable to articulate their difficulties. So, seeing a doctor or professional for screenings is essential to getting young children off to a good start.
Stay up to date on immunizations
Part of setting up a successful school year is ensuring your child and their classmates are protected from preventable diseases with immunizations. Schools are a hotbed for spreading germs and viruses because of the volume of students and lack of personal space and hygiene. So, you may need to provide proof that your child is up to date unless you have a medical waiver.
Prepare for special needs or accommodations
If your child has special needs related to school and learning, take that into consideration. Review any documented plans that are in place. Teachers should have this information if it has already been created for your child. But it’s a good idea to refresh yourself on your child’s needs and established supports so you can advocate on your child’s behalf. Also, plan ahead for special accommodations to help your student at home, too. This may include hiring a tutor or setting a regular homework schedule.
Get school supplies ready
Kids must have the supplies they need to support their learning. Find out what’s on your child’s supply list and see what you can provide your child or their class. Even if your child’s school provides the supplies, it’s good to have supplies at home for homework or projects. Ask your child’s teacher what would be helpful to have at home. Basic supplies usually include at least a backpack, pens, pencils, paper, and a binder or folders.
If you don’t have the financial means to cover your child’s supplies, help may be available. Check with FISD, the Frisco Public Library, Frisco Family Services or Frisco FastPacs to see if they offer assistance or know of any programs that can help
Don’t forget to build excitement!
Even kids who are excited about getting back to school and seeing their classmates often feel some amount of trepidation about a new school year. Going back to school should be a time of celebration and new beginnings. So, treat it like a holiday and start a back-to-school family tradition! Have your child choose a special outfit for the first day of school. Talk with your kids about what everyone is excited about and looking forward to in the new school year. Also, make school year resolutions and help your kids set realistic goals. Involve your kids in the process of preparing for the new school year, and find ways to make it fun, to ensure a smooth transition and academic success.
For a full account of the Board discussions on the 2020-21 school year, you can watch the recording of the June 11 workshop posted at http://www.friscoisd.org/about/board-of-trustees/agendas-meeting-archive.