US pediatricians advise schools to reopen, citing possible damage to children’s development during quarantine
The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement Tuesday saying the upcoming school year should begin with the goal of getting students back to school in the United States.
“The importance of face-to-face learning is well documented, and there is already evidence of negative impacts on children due to school closures in the spring of 2020,” says the AAP.
The AAP points out that children who spend a lot of time away from school and associated support services often result in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address significant learning deficits, as well. as physical or sexual violence of children and adolescents, substance use, depression. and suicidal thoughts.
However, in a poll by WGBH News / MassLive / Boston Globe / State House News Service conducted by Suffolk University, when it comes to sending children back to school, 50.8% of respondents say they do not yet feel comfortable sending children back to class or daycare.
“This is not surprising because the virus is so unpredictable and August is still far away, but it is far from what could happen with the virus,” said the superintendent of Worcester Public Schools, Maureen Binienda. “Of course, people want the safety of their families first.”
When asked if they think Massachusetts K-12 schools would be able to reopen in the fall in a way that protects most children and adults from the coronavirus, 46% of survey respondents said ” no ”while 43.6% answered“ yes ”and 10.4% are undecided.
The AAP said providing elementary school children the opportunity to attend school every day should be given due consideration on spacing guidelines if capacity is an issue: “Schools should weigh the benefits of strictly adhering to a 6-foot spacing rule between students with the potential downside if distance learning is the only alternative. “
“Policymakers must also consider the growing body of evidence regarding COVID-19 in children and adolescents, including the role they may play in the transmission of infection,” the statement said. ‘AAP. “SARS-CoV-2 appears to behave differently in children and adolescents compared to other common respiratory viruses, such as influenza, on which much of the current guidance for school closures is based.”
Data from National Center for Education Statistics shows that 37% of teachers in private schools, 29% of teachers in traditional public schools and 21% of teachers in public charter schools are over 50, making them the age group most vulnerable to coronavirus.
Barriers to protect teachers, such as plexiglass, are advised by the AAP and advise avoiding common areas such as staff lounges if they do not allow physical distancing.
The AAP said evidence suggests that a spacing as close as 3 feet can approach the benefits of 6 feet of space, especially if students are wearing headgear and are asymptomatic.
On June 19, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said that if the state did not take action now, there was a risk that another school year would be significantly affected for students after a disrupted spring after the schools closed in March.
“We need a reopening plan built around our most vulnerable students – students of color, immigrants, students with disabilities and low income students. This includes a specific plan to help these students during the summer and when school returns in the fall, ”Healey said.
The AAP advises schools to follow key principles before reopening amid the pandemic:
- School policies need to be flexible and nimble to respond to new information, and administrators need to be willing to fine-tune approaches when specific policies don’t work.
- It is extremely important to develop strategies that can be revised and adapted depending on the level of viral transmission at school and throughout the community and made in close communication with state and / or local public health authorities and recognizing the differences between school districts, including urban, suburban and rural districts.
- Policies must be practical, achievable and appropriate to the stage of child and adolescent development.
- Special considerations and accommodations to accommodate the diversity of young people should be made, especially for our vulnerable populations, including those who are medically fragile, live in poverty, have developmental challenges, or have health care needs. special health or disabilities, with the aim of ensuring safety. back to school.
- No child or adolescent should be excluded from school unless it is necessary to adhere to local public health mandates or because of unique medical needs. Paediatricians, families and schools should join together to 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 systematically communicated in languages other than English, if necessary, depending on the languages spoken in the community, to avoid the marginalization of parents / guardians who have limited fluency in English or do not speak at all. english.