How to salvage special back-to-school moments amid a pandemic

Jenna Ryu, USA TODAY

If you thought one semester of remote learning was unbearable, get ready for round two.

As coronavirus cases continue to spike throughout the U.S., many schools and universities are taking the precaution of continuing virtual learning throughout the fall in order to ensure social distancing and limit the number of students on campus. The rules for each school vary as some schools are completely online, while others are adopting a hybrid model that consists of both in-person and online coursework. Some universities are allowing only first-year students to return, while others are eliminating on-campus housing completely for the fall.

High school and college seniors face losing their last school years to COVID-19, and 5-year-olds are missing the exciting first day of kindergarten. So with many students starting the school year from home, parents might be wondering: "How can I make it better for them?"

USA TODAY has consulted with two experts about how to help your students of all ages kick off the school year with some real back-to-school moments. 

Continue the countdown

Online or in-person, the first day of school is something your child should happily anticipate. Tonya Abari, a writer and homeschooling parent herself, suggests counting down the days until school starts in more creative ways, such as filling a jar with 30 pieces of candy (or a healthier alternative) and giving one piece to your child every day. 

"Read 30 school-themed picture books to countdown for school. Use a wall calendar and have the child draw a picture on each day to count down. Or a countdown banner that holds 30 special notes to read each day leading up to the first day of school," she suggests.

Senior portraits

Rent a professional camera or hire a photographer to take your kids' senior portraits from home, whether it be formal or casual. You can take some nice photos outside in your backyard, or keep it traditional and use a backdrop indoors to shoot your senior's most memorable last year. 

"It's most effective to take 100 photos or more, then select the best," advises homeschooling high school expert Lee Binz. "Try to get photos with beloved pets and locations."