The American Academy of Pediatrics supports getting children back into the classroom and has outlined key plans that communities can use as they work toward that end. The COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry are data-driven recommendations offered for individual school systems to use as they work toward getting kids safely back into schools.
The guidelines are not a mandate and do not offer a timeline where in school learning must happen. Caregivers may find them useful because they outline what a return to safe school might look like as well as discuss the implications for medically vulnerable children and include planning as COVID-19 rates in communities change.
Pediatricians know that “schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being and provide our children and adolescents with academic instruction, social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/speech and mental health therapy, and opportunities for physical activity, among other benefits. Beyond supporting the educational development of children and adolescents, schools play a critical role in addressing racial and social inequity.” Restoring these services in the familiar school setting is imperative to the return to financial stability, wellness, and the intellectual and emotional growth of our children and families.
Here are some of the key points to consider, particularly related to the younger student:
- Cohort classes: This means keeping the same group of students together throughout the day. Students would work, play, and eat in the same group with the same teacher(s). This can help decrease transmission outside of their group both between students and from teacher to student.
- Emphasize hygiene: From the cleaning of surfaces to the washing of little hands, schools should have a plan on how to disinfect and maintain the classroom and should account for the increased supplies needed to do this.
- Masks: The AAP recognizes the difficulty that pre-K 3 and pre-K 4 students have wearing masks all day. Masks policies should reflect the ability and limitations of that age group.
- Buses: If possible, avoid the use of the bus. Buses should consider assigned seating in order to cohort students, should have clear markings to indicate where students should sit and should have windows open whenever possible.
- Outdoor spaces: Schools should consider options for outdoor learning when possible. The risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is decreased out of doors and so utilizing any outdoor space is encouraged.
- Testing: A negative COVID-19 swab, nor a serologic test should not be used for entry into schools. At this time, the limitations of testing in terms of availability and reliability preclude its use as a measure of one’s fitness for school. As rapid testing improves, this may change.
- Fever: Each school should have a written rapid response plan, available to the caregivers, that outlines the procedure that will be followed if a student or faculty member has a fever at school as well as their requirements for re-entry to school.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics supports safe in-school learning.
- Schools and caregivers should take safety precautions.
- Masks are important, but local schools can adapt.