While getting ready to go back to school can make children and parents both anxious and excited, the anxiety may be greater this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have had many parents ask questions about their children returning to school. Unfortunately, there are no simple answers. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), along with the National Educational Association (NEA) and other educational associations share the goal of children returning to school safely this fall. Children learn best when they are at school and in the classroom. Children also learn social and emotional skills while attending school, get healthy meals and exercise, and receive mental health and other services that they cannot easily get on-line. In addition, schools play a crucial role in addressing racial and social inequalities.
While returning to school is extremely important for the healthy development of our children, it must be done in a way that is safe for all students, teachers, and staff. Pediatricians, families, schools and communities should partner together. The AAP has published guidelines that include physical distancing in classrooms, use of face coverings, screening and testing for illness, and providing behavioral/emotional supports. The guidelines published by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) are similar to these recommendations. They emphasize checking for symptoms, washing hands, cleaning and sanitizing physical surfaces at school, practicing social distancing, and the use of face coverings for children grades 3 and above, teachers, and staff.
Even with these precautions, it is important to note that we cannot eliminate all risks of spreading and catching the virus, but with these guidelines, we can decrease the chances. We do know that children are less likely to catch as well as transmit COVID-19. We also know that children who do contract COVID-19 are usually less ill than older people. Given all of the emerging data and facts discussed above, the benefits of having children physically present in school outweighs the risks of getting ill with and transmitting COVID-19.
It is currently up to each district to decide what is best for their schools in regards to reopening. At this time, we support the AAP, NEA and ODH recommendations for students to return to their classrooms at school. However, as we have learned, this can change. We need to monitor disease rates and severity in communities and be willing to change course if things get worse.
So what can you do as parents to keep your children and their teachers safe? First, check your child’s temperature daily and do not send them to school if they have a temperature greater than 100 degrees or ill symptoms including headache, cough, nasal congestion, stomachache, body aches, and sore throat. Practice now with your children to get them used to wearing a mask, and when you and your children are outside of your home, please consistently wear them to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our practice is not issuing “mask waivers” since it is the decision of each establishment what their mask requirements are. However, we can provide letters of diagnosis for patients who may have difficulty wearing a mask, such as those with developmental issues or difficulty communicating. We require that patients and family members ages 2 years and above wear masks at all times when they are in one of our offices.
Each school district is going to have it’s own policies for what will be required in order to reopen and what their plans will be if circumstances change and schools need to revert to on-line learning. Please check with them first. We are here to help answer questions about COVID symptoms, transmission, and testing. Please do not hesitate to call our office with questions.
Resources on Back to School and mask wearing: