The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) released a statement urging kids to be allowed this Fall to be “physically present” in school.
On their website they state 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.
Schools were closed this Spring when data reflected children being able to carry the virus and expose adults, even if they were not symptomatic.
Most parents initially supported the idea of school closures and having online teaching to avoid spread of the virus to parents and grandparents.
But online learning did not appear to be as productive, and many parents feel their children learn better in a classroom environment.
The AAP agrees but only if the following benchmarks are met:
- School policies must be flexible and nimble in responding to new information, and administrators must be willing to refine approaches when specific policies are not working.
- It is critically important to develop strategies that can be revised and adapted depending on the level of viral transmission in the school and throughout the community and done with close communication with state and/or local public health authorities and recognizing the differences between school districts, including urban, suburban, and rural districts.
- Policies should be practical, feasible, and appropriate for child and adolescent’s developmental stage.
- Special considerations and accommodations to account for the diversity of youth should be made, especially for our vulnerable populations, including those who are medically fragile, live in poverty, have developmental challenges, or have special health care needs or disabilities, with the goal of safe return to school.
- No child or adolescent should be excluded from school unless required in order to adhere to local public health mandates or because of unique medical needs. Pediatricians, families, and schools should partner together to collaboratively identify and develop accommodations, when needed.
- School policies should be guided by supporting the overall health and well-being of all children, adolescents, their families, and their communities. These policies should be consistently communicated in languages other than English, if needed, based on the languages spoken in the community, to avoid marginalization of parents/guardians who are of limited English proficiency or do not speak English at all.
Children were one of the smallest groups affected by COVID, but some did suffer from Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C), with fever, rash, and multiple organ involvement.
The AAP cites evidence that school closures are harmful to children. They state:
Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality.
School’s however grapple with the notion that if COVID or flu cases surge this next Fall they may be forced to re-close down, again subjecting the students to abrupt, changes in learning. Some have suggested “hybrid” learning formats that include both in classroom and online learning for student safety by limiting group sizes, thus additionally easing the transition if a lockdown happens again.
This is a developing story….