Back-to-SchoolSupplements

Power Tools: Necessary Equipment for New Learning Environments

This year’s back-to-school shopping season has taken a major hit with retailers scrambling to offer sales on items that may of no particular use — of limited value under remote learning. In a season defined by the COVID-19 global pandemic, many parents have found that while they may not be shopping for school uniforms or book bags, they do have investments to make in their kids’ academic success and much of it is technologically driven.

According to an online study of 600 college students and 1,200 K-12 parents in July 2020, commissioned by PayPal and conducted by Netfluential, parents will actually spend more this year on school necessities than in previous years.

Forty percent of parents and 35 percent of college students plan to spend more this year than last. Of note, first-year college students will spend $732 on average, compared to $444 among K-12 parents. Additionally, 70 percent are doing more online shopping than before because of the pandemic and nearly three-quarters will be doing their back-to-school shopping online.

“We are ordering almost everything our children need online this year and there are a few things that are ‘big ticket items’ that we are having to purchase like different modems, desks, and chairs,” Northeast resident Wayman Dow told the Informer. “We want to recreate the classroom setting as much as possible and that costs a pretty penny.”

Dow can be counted among the 63 percent of Americans surveyed that said they plan to spend more on remote learning furniture and home goods and 59 percent indicating spending increase on remote learning and tech.

Other investments include tech tools for enhanced virtual learning, including headphones, laptops and tablets, monitors, bookcases, desks, and arts and crafts materials.

“We don’t know how long this quarantine will continue and so we have to outfit our homes to meet the needs of our children. It’s kind of exciting, actually,” Patricia Kelly-Patterson told The Informer. “It was one thing to have my three at different spots at the dining room table when the quarantine first began, but this is becoming a ‘new norm’ and so this environment needs to be as comfortable and conducive to learning as the classroom.”

For those parents whose children will return to the classroom, shopping lists include items like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers.

Board-certified pediatrician Dr. Candice W. Jones told CNN that the goal is to reduce sharing in the classroom as much as possible and to ward off any bacteria with proper disinfectants.

“Kids should have a 60 percent or higher alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which kills most types of bacteria, viruses and fungi. I recommend everyone having their own, not just to avoid handwashing in communal bathrooms, but also for other situations like on the bus,” Jones said. “And it’s important to practice using these items with your child before sending them off to school.”

And since many parents have kept their children from enclosed spaces like grocery stores and restaurants since the pandemic began, the children have not had to wear face masks at all — and certainly not for long periods of time. Experts believe it is crucial that parents not only purchase regulation masks that are proper fitting, but also that they practice having their children wear them about the house in order to get used to them.

“Parents should gradually build up face covering ‘endurance’ in their children by having them wear a face covering for longer and longer periods of time,” Michael LaSusa, superintendent of schools in Chatham, New Jersey advised. “If a child spends zero time during the day right now in a face covering, then that child will have a tough time spending four hours wearing one when September rolls around. We need to build up this endurance gradually.”

Retailers like Old Navy and Target offer children’s masks in stylish colors and patterns that may keep them from feeling anxious about wearing them. Parents are advised to also use permanent marker to label all masks with your child’s name, as well as to indicate the mask’s top, bottom, front and back, provide your child with a resealable bag or container for masks so that it remains clean when they are required to remove them for meals, and pack one or two spare masks with your child in a separate resealable bag or container, in case the initial mask breaks or gets dirty.

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