Back to School in a COVID World
"In these uncertain times, the most important consideration with back to school preparation is communication."
Guest post by Teen Advisory Group member Shaelyn Averaimo
I was diagnosed with a life-threatening milk allergy when I was a baby. I am now 13 years old and have had six anaphylactic reactions. During this time of year, I start preparing for back to school. Besides the usual things like buying school supplies, backpacks, lunch boxes, etc., I also have to prepare for back to school as someone with a food allergy. In past summers, I would schedule my yearly appointment with my allergist so that I can give my allergy plan to my school nurse and also refill my EpiPens. This year is different. Although I still have to do the same things I normally do, I now have to prepare for the unknown. With all the new COVID considerations, there is a lot more to think about.
In past years, I ate lunch in my school cafeteria with my friends. Although there are many risks and concerns that can arise in the cafeteria, I have had a good handle on how to keep myself safe. This year, I will most likely eat my lunch at my desk in my classroom. This makes me nervous because now there is a higher chance of unsafe food being in the classroom. Yes, I had the same problem in the cafeteria, but after lunch I was able to leave that room and go back to a safe classroom. I now feel like I have to be more vigilant in making sure my classroom is still a safe environment for me.
Communication with my teachers and classmates is key. For example, as happy as I am about more handwashing being done I worry that the other students will only use hand sanitizer as a way to wash their hands after lunch, and unfortunately hand sanitizer will not clean food from hands. Again, communication is key, and I will educate my classmates on the importance of washing with soap and water after lunch. Also, I now need to advocate for myself in making sure that there are EpiPens in every classroom, not just in the nurse’s office.
The good news is a lot of the extra precautions taken for COVID will help me feel safer in my classroom. The extra cleaning that will be done in the classroom will help with not having food left behind. Social distancing will be a big help, too. Not sitting so close together will lessen my chances of cross contact. Also I feel confident that I am in control of my own desk and will take extra steps to keep it clean, for example, keeping wipes in my desk to clean up after lunch. I also think the extra handwashing will help my classmates become more aware of what is on their hands.
In these uncertain times, the most important consideration with back to school preparation is communication. Talking with your principal, teachers, and school nurse about your specific needs will hopefully help ease the extra stress that comes with change.