Anxiety expected to be high as students prepare to return to school

SEATTLE — With kids going back to school in less than two weeks, anxiety is expected to be high among parents and students.

“This school year is not going to be like anything they’ve been through. There’s going to be a lot of new things in place. There’s going to be new expectations even in familiar surroundings,” said Kaiser Permanente’s Dr. John Dunn.

A panel of doctors, psychologists and the state superintendent of public instruction came together Thursday to tell families the harsh realities and possibilities for the upcoming school year.

“Be prepared for some infections. That’s really tough, and we don’t want to overstate that, but people are going to get sick,” said Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.

The overarching message is that educators must be ready for anything. For example, if there’s an outbreak, there’s a plan to limit infections, but even those plans are subject to change.

“I think the more we learn, we may make some changes in some of those protocols as we see and watch things over the next couple of months,” said Dr. Bob Lutz with the Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 Response Team.

A child psychologist who was on the panel said this year, she anticipates an intensified sense of anxiety before the start of the school year.

Doctors say the anxieties and stresses in students may not be obvious at first. Some signs to look out for are changes in eating, studying, or sleeping habits, changes in health such as frequent headaches or stomachaches, or changes in behavior or personality.

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