At the end of June, after months of social isolation and homeschooling, two of my grandkids told me they couldn’t wait to get back to school. Two days later, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidance on the return to school.
The goal of the guidance is for all children to return to school this fall, in areas where it’s safe to do so. Key principles include the need to be flexible and adapt to constantly changing levels of viral activity in a given community.
Constantly evolving plans vary from district to district and include all in-person returns, mixed approaches and completely online curricula. Regardless of which option your child’s school or you choose for your family, district policies must acknowledge the varying developmental stages of childhood and adolescence. Although there’s a conflict between the need to socially isolate for infection control and the need to socialize to achieve academic success, distancing is critical to prevent viral spread.
Schools should strive to maintain 6 feet of distance between staff, as well as between staff and students. For preschool, kindergarten and elementary students, distancing might not be practical, so classes should be “cohorted” to minimize mixing of students. Middle and high school students should wear masks. Although the AAP is a little vague on masking, some might argue that it’s too risky not to wear one: There’s still much that’s controversial about prevention of COVID-19.
While plans evolve and change on nearly daily, here are some of the suggestions made by the AAP for the return to school for middle and high schools:
- Block scheduling.
- Avoid the use of lockers (because they’re so close to one another).
- Rotate teachers instead of students in classrooms, when feasible.
- Restructure to smaller groups in classrooms.
- Travel just one way in hallways.
- Stagger classes so there’s less congestion in hallways.
- Use large spaces and outdoor areas as much as possible.
- Consider alternatives to lunchrooms, such as students lunching at their desks.
All schools should follow local health department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for cleaning and disinfection.
And finally, regardless of COVID-19, everyone should wash his or her hands as often as possible.
It’s critical to the wellbeing of our children that they return to school as soon as it’s safe, and hopefully, adherence to these AAP guidelines will help.
Dr. Joseph Kahn is president of Mercy Kids (mercykids.org), an expansive network of pediatric care dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, every day.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!