As a new school year is about to get underway, masks will be required, at least to start and until further notice.

But even with masks and when the day comes that the state mask mandate for schools is lifted, there are several health and safety protocols that must be followed to mitigate the spread of any Covid symptoms and germs of any kind as well.

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The good/positive news, if you will, is that in-person learning can resume for the fall as oppose to the several challenges present with virtual Zoom learning (albeit necessary during the height of the pandemic).

In order for in-person instruction, lunch and the daily activities of a school day to play out, every single person in the building has a role to play in making things safe.

"For many of us, we know that students really benefit from in-person learning. This last school year was difficult for very many so safely returning to in-person instruction is absolutely a priority for public health as well as education and that rolls out to our parents and students as well," Patty High, Ocean County Assistant Public Health Coordinator tells Townsquare Media News. "It really is up to everyone to do their part to try to stay safe within a school."

From maintaining a safe distance to common sense sanitary measures, it won't be a challenge to do your part to keep things as healthy as possible, especially the older kids.

Parents will play a big role in teaching their sons and daughters what to do, how and when.

"For parents and their children, as they're teaching their kids how to be safe going back, some of those individual skill sets like hand-washing and covering your mouth are big ones," High said. "Some students, depending on the age of the child, they may not be as good yet about understanding how to cover their mouth for a cough or a sneeze, they may not be great with wearing a mask, knowing what to do in a mask when you have to cough or sneeze and then also, hand-washing, it's something that kids in general sometimes struggle with so continuing to encourage children to wash their hands and making washing hands fun is also a great idea."

You can make it fun for the kids, young or older kids, by encouraging them to sing a song while washing their hands, (it worked for Brandon Flowers of The Killers during the Pandemic, who sang "Mr. Brightside") all while getting in between each finger and washing well with soap and water.

That's all at home too, wash your hands and brush your teeth before heading outside to catch the school bus.

Once on the bus and then into the hallways and classrooms of the school building, where you should sanitize your hands as often as possible and something that should be encouraged there as well not just to prevent Covid from spreading, if it's there, but also any other kind of virus or germs.

"I think a lot of schools and school districts have done a really great job making hand sanitizers, hand-washing stations and cleaning supplies very available," High said. "In addition, to Covid we're also seeing an increase in RSV this season that can be be highly contagious and a risk for young infants and toddlers so for our youngest age students going back to school, we certainly encourage all the more those same practices including the cleaning of school busses and classrooms."

It doesn't have to be a full on 'Mrs. Doubtfire' kind of cleaning but enough to ensure surfaces are clean and the air is as germ free as possible.

"You don't have to go crazy, if you have wipes we would encourage that after a school bus trip or route, that a bus driver would wipe down the seats and commonly touched points of contact so things like handles, door knobs, the tops of the backs of seats where children may place their hands," High said. "The same would be true for a classroom...door knobs and any commonly shared items, if there are desks that can be wiped down in-between classes, that would be ideal."

When cleaning, no need to necessarily use something that'll make your eyes water and burn.

High recommends a non-toxic sanitizer and while doing so, increase ventilation in any way possible, "including opening doors and windows".

Which brings us to the ventilation lesson.

Many classrooms have windows, most of them open up and can let in outside air, others are just there to look out of and don't open up at all. Other classrooms have no windows whatsoever.

Solution? Open the windows if you can, if not, opening doors will do and on occasion, fans.

"One of the things that public health is stressing as schools are reopening in light of Covid is if you can maximize multiple strategies of protection, increasing the layers of protection than you're really doing everything that you can, so ventilation is definitely an important part of that because you're trying to reduce the total number of virus particles that can be circulating in the air," High said. "For those classrooms that do have windows or doors that can be opened, we would encourage that would be done. You can use fans, but make sure that you're using child safe fans if that's the case to increase some of that ventilation and air flow and the circulation within a room."

Stay safe, stay healthy as the new school year begins and spread the word not the germs and viruses.

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