Back-to-School During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By September 29, 2020Health Tips

This has definitely been a very peculiar year! And here we are again, starting a new school year with a lot of questions and not all of the answers. One important question is what will the new school year be like?

We know it is very important for children to go to school in person, but why?

Back-to-School During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Schools not only provide more expertise teaching math, reading, writing, and science, than can be achieved at home, but they also teach children how to socialize. This is very important for our younger kids in school and extremely important for our teenagers.
Schools can also provide mental health counseling to children, therapies to the ones that need it, PE to get to do exercise, recess to have fun with friends, as well as breakfast and lunch for many kids (who might not have these meals if not received at school).
The COVID 19 pandemic has caused a bigger gap in learning in certain lower-income populations. 1 in 5 teenagers do not have a computer or internet access, which means they are not able to keep up and catch up with school work. This causes a great disadvantage compared to others who can afford this and are able to keep learning.
We know how important schools are for our children, but we also know they can spread a lot of germs! The virus that causes COVID-19 is extremely contagious, so we have to find a way to be able to go to school but try to not spread it, and mainly to people with risk factors.
Steps schools can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
  • Physical distancing:  At least 6 feet apart. Some studies have shown that 3 feet might be enough if using a facial cloth mask and avoiding close contact.  Teachers can stay 6 feet apart and avoid any in-person meetings.
  • Cloth face covering:  All adults and children > 2y/o should wear cloth facial masks (cover nose and mouth).
  • Hand washing:  Frequent hand washing with water and soap can also help stop the spread of germs. Children do tend to touch their face a lot and can spread the germs by contact.
  • Classroom arrangements:
    • Teachers can be the ones to move from classroom to classroom instead of the students moving.
    • Lunch in classroom or in small groups outside.
    • Leaving classroom doors and windows open to avoid touching door knobs and help ventilate the classroom.
  • Temperature checks: This might not be feasible at school, but can be done at home. If your child is not feeling well it is better to keep him home until a more specific diagnosis can be made. Children must stay home with any fever (> 100.4 temp) or any signs of illness. COVID-19 symptoms can include: fever, cough, sore throat, dizziness, headaches, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of taste or smell, runny nose.
  • COVID-19 testing is not recommended for students to start school. Testing should be done if they have symptoms.
  • Exposure: If someone was in close contact, which means less than 6 feet apart for more than 15 minutes, they should quarantine. Quarantine is 14 days since exposure.
  • Symptoms at school: Nurses at school should take the temperature of anyone who feels ill at school. To stay safe, nurses should use Personal Protective Equipment (N95 masks, surgical mask, gloves, face shields).
  • Cleaning and disinfecting: Schools should follow CDC guidelines on cleaning and disinfecting common areas and classrooms.
What about the school bus?
Some tips to make the passengers safe can include:
  • If students have other options to go to school they should use them, to allow students that need it to be safer.
  • Assigned seats
  • Facial cloth mask
  • Sanitizing the bus after each use.
What about high risk students?
These tips can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 but cannot eliminate the risk of infection to those children that are high risk or live with family members that are high risk. These families should discuss their risks with their pediatrician and discuss possible special accommodations at school or home.
Students with disabilities have had an even harder time adjusting to this new reality. They have missed therapies and routines that are very beneficial. Schools will need to review every case in particular with an Individual Education Program before returning to school and these students might need to get their services virtually if not able to be done in person.
Will all schools open?
Each school should decide to open depending on the spread of COVID in their community. Some schools will be fully in person, others are hybrid (some at school and some at home), and others are all virtual. This might change through the school year according to the spread of the virus.
If you have any questions about returning to school, please log into your account and send
us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Valerie Hines, MD, FAAP


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