Many districts across the country are looking ahead to this fall and trying to make plans about how students could, or should, return to the classroom. A nationwide pediatric group is urging local leaders, parents and education systems to collaborate and create policies that allow for as much in-person learning this fall as possible.
The American Academy of Pediatrics released guidance on their website based on in-person attendance at schools being not only fundamental to children’s mental, social and physical development, but also playing “a critical role in addressing racial and social inequality … it is critical to reflect on the differential impact SARS-CoV-2 and the associated school closures have had on different races, ethnic and vulnerable populations.”
The recommendations include masks, physical distancing, and outdoor play, with more specifics. Such as, the AAP recommends placing desks 3-to-6 feet apart as long as it allows children to attend school; the 3-foot distance can be used when face coverings are also being worn.
Middle and high schools should avoid groupings of students inside doing activities involving exhalation, i.e. singing, exercising, etc. according to the recommendations. The AAP also encourages limiting locker use and moving from room-to-room for classes.
The guidance extends to school faculty and staff, with the AAP urging districts to make sure adults in schools get the support they need to set a good example and stay healthy.
“In the same way that students are going to need support to effectively return to school and to be prepared to be ready to process the information they are being taught, teachers cannot be expected to be successful at teaching children without having their mental health needs supported.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last updated their guidance to schools and care facilities in April and it is focused on quickly stopping an outbreak, cleaning facilities and maintaining continuity in education and meal accessibility.
AAP acknowledges any school policy this fall should be flexible and nimble, able to respond to new information about the coronavirus and specific needs in each school, district and region.
“Although schools should be prepared to be agile to meet evolving needs and respond to increasing knowledge related to the pandemic and may need to institute partial or complete closures when the public health need requires, they should recognize that staff, students, and families will benefit from sufficient time to understand and adjust to changes in routine and practices.”