The shelves at local stores are loaded with boxes of bright crayons, notebooks, pink erasers and shiny new lunchboxes. While parents know what supplies their children will need for the upcoming school year, there still are some decisions that may be up in the air.
One of those decisions parents will need to make this season is how their children will participate in schooling, said Cindy Clampet, Oklahoma State University Extension assistant resource management specialist.
“Oklahoma schools are considering several different options of schooling in the fall semester, including traditional in-class instruction, distance learning and a hybrid of the two – part in-class learning and part virtual learning,” Clampet said. “Part of the in-school learning will include teaching students how to access the virtual platform in the event changes in school structure must be made after school starts.”
Parents whose schools opt for virtual learning must make sure they have the technology available to help ensure their children have a successful year. Clampet said a fully functioning computer and internet access is essential for distance-learning.
“If a family doesn’t have these resources, an option is to seek out free or low-cost alternatives,” she said. “Do a quick search for free and low-cost computers. Also, some schools may have the resources to provide their distance-learning students with a laptop or tablet.”
The reliability of internet connections also may be an issue for families. Clampet said some families will need to upgrade their existing service to help ensure a smooth learning process for students. In addition, she suggests regularly changing and updating passwords on all accounts because scammers always are looking for ways to compromise existing accounts.
Another classroom option is an online virtual public school. Clampet said it is important for parents to know taxpayer revenue collected by the government will follow students to whichever schools they enroll in.
“Your local public school will be losing money if the parent chooses this option for their child, which could have lasting effects on that school,” she said.
Although how and where a child attends school this academic year may not yet be decided, there is one thing parents can count on to help cut the cost of starting back to school: Oklahoma’s tax-free shopping weekend, slated for Aug. 7-9 this year. Clampet said generally in Oklahoma, clothing and shoes that cost less than $100 qualify for tax exemption.
“Some other states in the past have included computers and school supplies, but Oklahoma has not,” Clampet said. “If you live near the Oklahoma border, it might be worthwhile to check out the deals in a neighboring state.”
Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Consideration for Schools website for more information related to COVID-19 concerns.
Also, ready.gov, the Department of Homeland Security’s official website, offers a variety of resources for parents. It suggests the following to get ready to go back to school:
- Find out your school’s plan.
- Choose the option best for your family and situation.
- Be upbeat and positive about your choice, especially in front of your children.
- Explain the situation and all procedures to your child, including mask wearing, social distancing and temporary quarantining.
- Be prepared for changes and be adaptable.
- Get “tech-ready” and seek tech resources if needed.
- Seek additional help, if needed, from the school, teachers and friends.
“As we’ve all learned in 2020, life is unpredictable. The situation we’re currently in is unusual, but we must be adaptable to help ensure the children get the most out of their educational opportunities.”