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Relationships & Money

8 Minute Read

Back to School in a COVID-19 World

8 Minute Read

A classroom setting or an online learning option.

It’s back-to-school time again! . . . Wait. Or is it? Right now, most of us know very little about what the 2020-21 school year holds. But one thing we do know is it’s going to look a lot different than it did in the pre-COVID-19 days.

And even though the American Academy of Pediatrics has encouraged schools to let students come back to the classroom, parents are still torn on the issue.1 This year, 56% of parents want a traditional, full-time, in-person school setting for their kids, and 37% want a hybrid of part-time school mixed with some online learning.2 But no matter what happens, it’s true that things will be different.

What Back to School Could Look Like

There’s no one-size-fits-all as we navigate this return back to the classroom—whether that’s in the school building physically or around an iPad screen at home. The CDC came up with guidelines for schools to follow as they start to reopen again, but depending on your region, state and even county, each school’s plan is going to look different.3

Here are a few of the most popular options being tossed around right now:

Revised In-Class Learning

Don’t forget to add a face mask to your back-to-school supply list this year. If your school opts to keep students in class, they’re most likely going to require students to wear a mask, sit in desks at least 6 feet apart (or more), and wash their hands a lot—like they’re preparing to go into surgery. By this point in the game, that doesn’t sound all that different from how we’ve all been living these past few months. But it’s going to be an entirely new way of interacting in a classroom for students.

Video lessons

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And the differences don’t stop there. Students might even be grouped together in “bubbles,” where they only interact with the same, few students (and teachers) for things like recess, lunch and teaching sessions. The idea here is that you keep a small number of people interacting together and if one of them comes down with the virus, you could quarantine the “bubble” and not the entire classroom (or school!).

Hybrid In-Class/Online Learning

Another option is a best-of-both-worlds kind of deal. Some schools are planning to allow only a few students in on certain days of the week and then learn online during their “off days.” This way they can keep the school below capacity, give plenty of space for students and teachers to social distance, and allow plenty of time to wipe down the place before the next batch of kids arrives.

So, what does this tweaked schedule look like when it’s actually played out? It’s pretty simple really. Your student might be in-class Tuesday and Thursday and then continue school online from home on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. With this option, you get a little bit of normalcy back while also giving the school (and kids!) some breathing room to keep things safe.

All Online Learning

Then there’s this option, the one we’re all oh-too-familiar with. When the world shut down back in March, most schools went into 100% online mode all of a sudden. And while it was a klutzy process for some schools, there’s hope that (with a little more notice and planning) a fully online learning experience would be way better this second time around.

If you do end up having the kids at home this fall, be prepared for that to really impact your budget (kind of like it did this last spring). Sure, you might not be spending money on gas to cart them around from soccer games to dance recitals, but you’ll have a different set of things to pay for. If your kids usually eat breakfast and lunch at school five days a week, you’ll need to buy (and budget for) food that they’ll be eating at home. Do you usually give the thermostat a break when no one’s at the house? With the kids at home, you’ll have to cool or heat the house throughout the day too.

Items to Add to the Back-to-School List

Your school always hands out a back-to-school supply list, right? You stock up on markers, pencils and lined paper and stuff that backpack to the brim. But this year, there are some useful (and unique) items that you should probably add to that list. These things might help out your student whether they’re in the classroom or in a hybrid learning setup. Just be sure you add any extra expenses like this to your back-to-school budget.

  • Face mask
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Blue light blocking glasses (for the computer/tablet screen)

How to Prepare for the 2020-21 School Year

1. Stay up to date with your school.

This should go without saying, but be sure to stay in the loop this summer as things unfold and decisions are made in your school district. That way you’re not surprised when August 17 rolls around and you get a call from the school saying your kids didn’t show up for the first day of class. Whoops!

2. Make a budget.

That’s not surprising, right? You knew we were going to mention your budget. Yep—even in a blog about going back to school during COVID-19.

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter if your kids are going back to school in the classroom or around your kitchen table—you need a back-to-school budget. The things you need to buy might be new sneakers and glue sticks or extra snacks and peanut butter and jelly sandwich fixings (depending on what route your school takes with class—online or in-person). But either way, your budget will be ready to go.

3. Be sure that your electronic devices are ready.

If your school decides to take the hybrid route or go completely online, then you’re going to need to be ready. Make sure you have your family computer or your kid’s iPad ready to go. Some schools are even providing laptops and e-readers to students so that no one has a barrier in between them and learning. If you need a device for distance learning, reach out to your school and see if they can help.

4. Try to keep some sort of normalcy.

No matter what the school year is going to look like, try to make an effort to keep some kind of “normal” in place. We know you’re thinking, What the heck does normal mean anymore? Good question. Maybe that’s keeping your usual school routine in place each morning (eat breakfast, get dressed, start school) or it’s just sticking with the norm of taking the kids back-to-school shopping. You know your kids and your lifestyle best—the important thing is to do something that feels like it used to feel back before all this COVID craziness started.

5. Lead by example.

Look, we get it—life has been completely turned upside down these last few months. There’s no denying things have been weird. But remember that your kids hear what you say and notice what you do. If you’re constantly complaining that the kids have been at home too long or that your school isn’t acting the way you want them to, maybe it’s time to step back, take that deep breath in, and get a good look at your attitude.

The easiest way to give your attitude a kick in the pants? Cultivating a heart of gratitude. Start by making a list of all the things you’re thankful for—right here, right now, in this really messy season of life. Once you start listing things, you’ll be surprised by how quickly your whole outlook can change.

Should You Homeschool This Year?

This is such a personal decision—COVID-19 or not. But after homeschooling the kids for a few months already this year, you might be more open to it now more than ever. The good news is there are a ton of resources out there for you! Check the homeschool laws in your state and connect with local support groups in your community as you make your decision.

One of the biggest advantages to homeschooling is getting to select the curriculum and subjects that your student is interested in. Break up the usual flow of math, science and history with learning money principals that will impact your student’s life forever. Our Foundations in Personal Finance curriculum will empower your student to make solid money choices when it comes to things like earning money, making budgets, and going to college debt-free!