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Back-to-Class Basics for 2021-2022 School Year

Back-to-Class Basics for 2021-2022 School Year

With Dr. Manuel Gordillo, Sarasota Memorial Infectious Disease specialist

It’s hard to believe, but summer break is quickly winding down for students in Sarasota and Manatee counties. 

Be sure your student is ready to tackle the 2021-2022 school year safely with these tips and reminders from Sarasota Memorial’s medical experts.

COVID-19 Safety at School

When local public schools open the doors Aug. 10, it will be amid a new surge of COVID-19 cases — a surge largely dominated by the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant — and pediatric coronavirus cases on the rise across Florida. 

Yet many schools have relaxed or removed the COVID-19 safety protocols put in place during the 2020-2021 school year: Face coverings are no longer mandatory, and remote learning is no longer an option. 

What can parents do to keep their students safe, healthy and in the classroom?

Encourage Students to Wear Face Masks

While wearing a face covering will be optional for students, teachers and staff at area public schools — a policy that runs contrary to national health experts’ recommendations — Sarasota Memorial Infectious Disease specialist Manuel Gordillo, MD, advises parents to send their students back to class with face masks.

“Right now, the virus has the upper hand, and we're in the middle of a surge,” he said. “In fact, we're seeing so much exponential growth in COVID-19 cases that I advocate for everyone to wear a mask indoors in public places, even those who are vaccinated.” 

Both the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend wearing face masks indoors at school for students in K-12, especially those who cannot be vaccinated.

Encourage Teens to Get Vaccinated

For students age 12 and older, the best way to protect them from getting or spreading COVID-19 is through vaccination. 

The 2-shot Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is readily available in our area; children age 12 to 18 can get vaccinated during Department of Health vaccine clinics for students and at many local retail pharmacies. Click here to find a location near you.

“This vaccine in particular is one of our best,” Dr. Gordillo said. “It’s extremely safe and extremely effective.”


Set Your Student Up for Success


Powering Down & Recharging
Experts recommend that children stick to a consistent sleep schedule and get 8 to 10 hours of sleep daily. Spending too much time on electronic devices — TVs, tablets and smart phones — can really make it hard to get restful sleep; be sure your student powers down devices at least an hour before bedtime.

Fueling Up
Learning minds benefit from starting the day with a protein-rich breakfast. Eggs in any form fit the bill, as does toast with nut butter. For grab-and-go options, a hard-boiled egg is hard to beat.

Staying Hydrated
Hydration is essential to keep the body and brain working at full strength. Encourage your student to stay hydrated throughout the day by giving them a reusable water bottle they can personalize.

Getting Physical
After sitting at a desk most of the day, students often need to get physical after school. Getting adequate exercise helps kids stay healthy AND sleep well at night.

Continue COVID-19 Precautions

Have a student at home who’s too young for vaccination or can’t get the vaccine for health reasons? Your best shot at keeping them healthy, safe and in school is to ensure the adults and teens in their life are vaccinated and practicing proper COVID-19 precautions (wearing masks in public places, avoiding crowds and physical distancing when possible).

“The way to protect unvaccinated kids is by vaccinating everyone else in the household,” Dr. Gordillo explained.

Getting There, & Back, Safely

Whether your student commutes on foot, bike or bus, review these rules of the road with them.


  • Stay alert and on the lookout for careless drivers in your area.
  • Always walk on designated sidewalks and footpaths. If there is no sidewalk, walk against traffic and as far off the road as possible.
  • Always cross the street at designated crossing areas and wait for the traffic signal to say it’s safe.

Bike Riders

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Stay alert. Look out for careless drivers, cars backing out of driveways or people opening car doors.
  • Bike within designated bike lanes when possible, and follow traffic laws.

Bus Riders

  • Stay back from the road (at least 5 steps away from the curb) when waiting for the bus to arrive.
  • Face forward in your seat, and stay seated while the bus is in motion.
  • When crossing in front of the bus, be sure you’re at least 10 feet in front of it and make eye contact with the driver before crossing.


Phil LedererAs a Sarasota Memorial copywriter, local journalist and in-house wordsmith Philip Lederer, MA, crafts a variety of external communications for the healthcare system. He earned his Master’s degree in Public Administration and Political Philosophy from Morehead State University, Ky.

** NOTE: This blog post was published Aug. 3, 2021. For the latest information on COVID-19, please visit or click here to visit the CDC website.

Posted: Aug 3, 2021,
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