School’s out for the summer. School’s out… forever? In 1972, rockstar Alice Cooper sang those lyrics, and they seem to have an eerie amount of truth behind them these days. Classes might not be back in session for a while due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

You shouldn’t let this news stop you from celebrating back-to-school! Education is and always will be exciting, so during this strange time it’s all about being creative. A celebration at the start of the school year will lift the spirits of both your students and faculty. So what can you do to have fun and still maintain the CDC’s guidance for social distancing?

Check out a few awesome back-to-school ideas you can try during the pandemic!

#1: Host a Virtual Picnic

Encourage each student and faculty member to host a picnic in their own backyard. They can set up something elaborate – complete with a blanket, delicious meal, and their families. Ask everyone to then record a video of them sharing an inspirational message and post it on your school’s Facebook page.

It’s hard to stay connected right now, but this is an activity everyone can enjoy together. Your entire community will bond and may even end up swapping recipes!

#2: Rent Out a Few Days at a Local Park

Even if you’re doing e-learning and not reopening the school, you can still get together with the students. Rent out a few days at a local park so each grade level can celebrate separately. You can then cater from a nearby restaurant, which helps support small businesses at a time when they need it most.

By separating the grade levels, you’re reducing the number of people that are in the park at once. Take it a step further by asking everyone to wear face masks when they’re not sitting at their tables.

#3: Post Pics for Spirit Week

Who says spirit week has to be in your hallways? Email everyone a schedule ahead of time chalked full of spirit week fun. If you’re using Google Classroom, each student can attach a pic of them in spirit wear when they log in for the day. Offer extra credit to the students who participate the most!

The week should be full of fun ideas. Need inspiration? Give these spirit days a try!

  • Monday:  Sports Jersey Day
  • Tuesday:  Crazy Hat Day
  • Wednesday:  Pet Day
  • Thursday:   Halloween Costume Day
  • Friday:  Wear Your School Colors

Your students will love breaking up math or science class with adorable pet pictures or ridiculous hats. It helps take the seriousness out of e-learning!

#4: Mail Out Custom Gifts

Snail mail is making a comeback! While everyone’s still stuck inside, mail out a few custom gifts to every student and faculty member.

Here are great custom gift suggestions for back-to-school:

T-shirts

Choose your school colors and get your school’s name or mascot screen printed on the front.

Mini hand sanitizers

Think up a cute message for the labels like “Stay Healthy” or “Go Away Germs!”

Day planners

Put your school name on the cover and mail them out before the first day. Your students can use them to keep up with online assignments.

Novelty pens

Everything may be online, but your students and teachers will still want to write things down from time to time. Send them fun novelty pens for the job!

Mouse pads

It can be a pain to use a laptop for e-learning work. Get your school’s logo digitally printed on a mouse pad and mail them out to each student.

Pedometers

You might gain 19 pounds during COVID-19 from being stuck indoors. Gym class may be tough, but encourage the students and faculty to keep on moving with custom pedometers.

Socks

Have a little fun and send funky socks to all your students. They’ll love rocking these during spirit week.

Bookmarks

Video games are fun and all, but hopefully your students are still picking up a book while in quarantine. Mail out a little bookmark as a reminder!

You never know what school supplies your students may be missing, so you can’t go wrong with little care packages. Bundle as many of these items as you can together and mail them out to everyone! It will lift their spirits during these challenging times.

#5: Send a Free Lunch or Dessert on Birthdays

You should have a database full of every student and faculty member’s birthday. Make it extra special by sending them a little Bundt cake, personal pizza, or a dozen donuts! It doesn’t take a lot of extra effort on your part, and everyone is sure to appreciate the gesture.

Apps like Grubhub and DoorDash are offering free delivery and other discounts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants and sweet shops are also willing to make special deliveries, just to keep customers coming into their doors.

#6: Give Back to Charity

Many organizations are collecting for COVID-19 relief. Take for instance UNICEF, who is helping fight the pandemic around the world by collecting supplies and taking donations.

People are decluttering and cleaning due to the extra time on their hands from shelter-in-place. Send a mailer home to parents that asks them to dig through their house and find supplies like pencils, folders, notebooks, highlighters, and even old backpacks. Your school can then donate these items to UNICEF or any other organization that needs them.

The following non-profits will take your donated school supplies:

You can also donate these supplies to your local library, or to the teachers working hard in your own classrooms. Your school has the power to make a difference in the world at a time when it’s needed most.

#7: “My First Day” Pictures

Send posters, markers, stickers, and other craft supplies to every family in your district, and ask them to make “My First Day” signs with their kids. You can even dedicate an entire page in the yearbook to these pictures!

It’s truly a special feeling to walk your kid to school on the first day, and parents might be missing out on that milestone due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). A fun “My First Day” sign is a heartfelt way to bring the magic back to this moment.

#8: Host a Movie Night

Netflix is offering an incredible service called Netflix Party where you send out a link, and everyone can watch the same movie at the same time. Are you a teacher? Email out a movie to your students during the first week. You can all watch it together over the weekend and then have a discussion about it the next day in the virtual classroom.

The following movies are currently available on Netflix and are appropriate for school:

  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • The Karate Kid
  • The Witches
  • Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax

A little movie night breaks up the monotony of logging in and out every day for e-learning. You’ll build a solid relationship with your students right away and could even continue sending new movies throughout the year.

#9: Fitness Challenge

The traditional walkathon is a little tough due to the social distancing guidance. Still, you can get your school moving with epic fitness challenges during the first week like planks, push-ups, and maybe even a “from the couch to 5K” program. Parents, students, and faculty can all get involved!

YouTube has a ton of free resources you can try, including highly effective HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercises. Coaches might even want to continue doing this throughout the school year, especially if summer and fall sports have been cancelled. It’s a great way to keep your athletes in shape.

#10: “Wish You Were Here” Postcards

Your students are probably missing the feeling of waking up every morning and going to school. They want to see their friends, and even though it doesn’t always seem like it, they want to see their teachers, too.

Take a pic of your school and send out a “Wish You Were Here” postcard to every family in your district. The principal can type out a special message to print on the back. A postcard might seem a little cheesy, but it’s also a little reminder that we’re all in this together.

Final Thoughts

Every school is a little bit different. You might be doing e-learning the whole year, or you could be staggering the days where some students come into the building and others stay at home.

No matter what your plan, you should still lift everyone’s spirits by celebrating back-to-school. This is a tough time in our country and every little thing you do to bring a smile to someone’s face can make a world of difference!

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over three years of experience in the industry. Her passion for writing has led to a BA in English & Communications from Aurora University and work published for the Advertising Specialty Institute and The Bolingbrook Sun Times.