MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As kids head back to school, it’s important to stick to a routine.  That’s the message from mental health experts who say rituals will help students navigate through the uncertainty of a new year.

WCCO visited Anoka High School, where many teenagers were ready to get back on track.

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“We’re super excited to have our kids back. They want to be back in school,” principal Michael Farley said.

Students walked into a set-up they’ve never seen at Anoka High School.  They called it “distribution day,” a day to pose for school pictures in the lobby and pick up class materials in the cafeteria.

“They’re final step they’ll pick up their chrome books to start distance learning next Monday,” Farley said.

There were plenty of kids who welcomed a familiar routine.

Elijah Paulson noticed a mental boost by joining an early morning workout group at the school this summer.

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“It’s definitely better and nicer to have something to do and you know you have to do something,” Paulson said. “During COVID it was just wake up whenever, do whatever but it’s good getting back on schedule.”

As the chief education officer and a pediatrician at Children’s Minnesota, Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd always stresses the importance of set bed and wake-up times this time of year. That’s especially so now and if you’re learning at home.

“When they know what to expect kids do better,” Goepferd said. “I think the big keys this year are adaptability, flexibility, not setting our expectations too high.”

Goepferd also believes distance learners need to take regular breaks and move around when they do.  She also says parents should check in frequently on their kids’ feelings.

So no matter how different the days may look, a return to regular duties may be an unintended lesson in it all.

“They understand a synchronized schedule where they are getting up earlier, going in and checking in with each classroom is very important to them,” Farley said.

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Beginning Monday next week, Anoka High School students will do distance learning for two weeks. Then, they plan to follow a hybrid model moving forward if COVID-19 case numbers continue to stay stable.

Liz Collin