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How to prepare students for the upcoming school year

A panel of educators, doctors and the Washington superintendent gave advice for students' mental health, school operations and more on Thursday.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Parents, teachers, students and staff might have questions before as the school year begins 

The panel addressed the implications of COVID-19 on back-to-school plans, discussed the latest guidance, and discussed how to support children’s mental health.

The panelists included Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, Medical Director for Preventative Care at Kaiser Permanente Dr. John Dunn, Washington State Department of Health on the COVID-19 Response Team Dr. Bob Lutz and MS Business Resource Group Coordinator Indira Melgarejo Carvajal.

Mental health for students

Signs of mental distress can look different in kids than adults, according to Dunn.

Things to look out for include changes in appetite or sleeping habits, unusual drop in grades and complaints about things like consistent headaches or stomachaches.

Teens as well as children can also show their stress and anxiety through outbursts or aggression. 

Also, after staying inside with family for this extended period of time, Carvajal said separation anxiety could be even more prominent in children and teens as they go back to school. 

Self-esteem can also change when going back to school, especially when students have been home for so long. 

“K-12 students are constantly changing their personality, maneuvering their self-esteem so school is very important, self-esteem is connected with performance,” Carvajal said.

How parents can help

According to Dr. John Dunn at Kaiser Permanente, the best way to introduce kids to a new school is to answer all of the questions that may come up. These questions can range from "Where's the door?" or "where's the playground?" to "where will I need to wear a mask?".

 List of resources

What are the covid-19 requirements for schools?

On August 9, Gov. Jay Inslee is expanding the statewide COVID-19 vaccination mandate to all K-12 school employees as well as employees of the state's higher education institutions. 

This means that educators, staff, coaches, bus drivers and school volunteers will have until Oct. 18 to be fully vaccinated or face losing their job.

The mandate already applies to most state employees and health care workers.

Inslee also reinstated a mask mandate for indoor public spaces for everyone, regardless of vaccination status. The universal mask mandate will take effect Monday, Aug. 23.

The state’s vaccine mandate expansion includes public, private and charter schools but does not include any students or tribal schools.