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A step-by-step guide for keeping your children safe if they return to school classrooms

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Thousands of students in the Borderland have now returned to classes for the new school year online. Right now, many parents are being asked to decide whether they will their children back to the classroom for in-person learning when campuses reopen.

A local infectious disease expert said there are several ways to improve safety if you decide to send your child back.

Those safety steps start at home. Dr. Armando Meza, an infectious disease specialist with Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, recommends packing necessary supplies in your child's backpack: things like hand sanitizers and face coverings. Most importantly, Dr. Meza said it is important to explain to your child why such supplies are necessary.

"One of the things that I will make sure my child knows is basically what you are doing," he said, "what you're trying to achieve."

Dr. Meza said that knowledge can help a child be more aware of when to use sanitizers in a classroom setting, or when to wash his or her hands. Explaining the importance of social distancing can be key, especially for younger kids, who might have a harder time understanding why it is so vital to stay far apart from other people.

"You want your child to be very aware of what a closed space environment is," Dr. Meza said.

Some schools are adding extra safety measures to make these adjustments easier. In San Elizario, elementary students will use desk dividers to ensure distancing and to help minimize the spread of viral droplets. Face covering requirements are also in effect at most major districts in the area.

Dr. Meza said the responsibility will fall on teachers to make sure safety policies are followed.

"The responsibility of the teachers is significant mainly because they are the ones who are going to be able to monitor the room," he said.

Safety measures should continue when the school day ends. As you pick your children up from campus, Dr. Meza recommends sanitizing their hands before they step inside the car or house. Rolling down the windows on the car ride home can also improve air flow and potentially reduce exposure.

When you arrive at home, Dr. Meza recommends your child change clothes as soon as possible. Ensure your child removes his or her mask carefully and wash it before its next use.

Safety planning steps can help families feel more in control about the possibility of returning to campus. Still, it's a personal choice for every family to make.

"There is always a balance in whether there is a risk that you're taking by taking your children to school and the benefit of allowing them to interact with other children," Dr. Meza said. "I think that it will be helpful for parents to have a plan and strategize ahead of time."

Madeline Ottilie

Madeline Ottilie is a reporter on Good Morning El Paso and co-anchors ABC-7 at noon.

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