Considerations for the upcoming school year during the COVID-19 pandemic

We recognize that everyone is struggling with the decision of what to do about school this fall. Many schools are offering options such as full in-person schooling, full online learning, or a hybrid approach. It is important to note that there is no single best answer nor one answer that will work for everyone. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and advocates for policy considerations for the coming school year that start with the goal of having students physically present in school. We, the physicians at Montgomery Pediatrics, agree with this statement. However, we recognize that these recommendations are made for the general pediatric population, and you, as parents need to make the best decision for your child and family.

Consider your child: If your child has an underlying medical condition that would put them at increased risk for severe disease, then it may be best to prioritize the school option that would minimize their exposure. It is also important to consider your child’s educational needs and how they responded to remote learning last spring. You should assess if your child has the technology available to them as well as the organizational and self-motivation skills that is needed to be successful in the remote classroom. School also provides supports beyond academics. If your child receives special services at school such as OT, PT, speech, and behavioral or mental health supports it is important to factor this into your decision making. Virtual learning can be isolating for some children and can have a negative impact on their mental health. Consider what social outlets are present for your child and how you can help facilitate them in the upcoming school year.

Consider your home situation: As parents we are used to playing many roles. These roles and responsibilities have increased over the past few months. Consider your ability to support your child’s educational process. It is also important to consider your health and the health of other family members. If you or your child regularly has contact with someone at increased risk for severe disease then it may be best to prioritize the option that limits your child exposure to COVID-19.

Consider your school’s proposal: We know that mitigation strategies such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and hand hygiene can help reduce virus transmission. Review the strategies proposed by your school system. Are they able to organize the school day to minimize the amount of people your child is exposed to? Is your child able to stay in the same classroom for the majority of their activities including lunch? It is also important to consider what strategy is in place for bussing, drop off and pick up. Face masks have shown to help prevent viral spread. Studies have found that the viral transmission can occur in the absence of symptoms. It is important to inquire if your school has a face mask policy in place. Consider how your child would respond to this. It is important to start practicing wearing a face mask with your child prior to school starting. You should also ensure that your child has access to the appropriate hand hygiene supplies such as a hand washing station or hand sanitizer. Inquire if extra cleaning protocols are in place and if shared items are minimized.

Everyone’s situation is unique and personal. We hope that these considerations will help you make the most informed and educated decision for your child and your family. Of course, if you have questions or other concerns, we are always available to discuss your unique situation with you.

 

             

Author
Julie Wigton, MD Board Certified Pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics

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