Nation’s top pediatricians call for in-person learning

As research has found, schools are one fundamental aspect to child development. They help our kids grow academically, socially, emotionally and physically.

That’s why the nation’s top pediatricians want to see students back in the classroom this Fall, whenever and wherever it is safe to do so.

In newly released guidance, the American Academy of Pediatrics “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

According to the AAP, school re-entry policies should consider these key principles:

  • School policies must be flexible in responding to new information, and administrators must be willing to refine approaches when specific policies are not working
  • Develop strategies that can be revised and adapted depending on the level of viral transmission in the school and throughout the community
  • 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
  • No child or adolescents should be excluded from school unless required in order to adhere to local public health mandates or because of unique medical needs
  • School policies should be guided by supporting the overall health and well-being of all children, adolescents, their families, and their communities

Experts have found that “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.”

In order to safely reopen schools, the AAP released several recommendations for elementary and secondary school students:

Elementary students

  • Children should wear face coverings when harms (eg, increasing hand-mouth/nose contact) do not outweigh benefits (potential COVID-19 risk reduction).
  • Desks should be placed three to six feet apart when feasible (if this reduces the amount of time children are present in school, harm may outweigh potential benefits).
  • Cohort classes to minimize crossover among children and adults within the school.
  • Utilize outdoor spaces when possible.

Secondary students (middle and high school) 

  • Universal face coverings in middle and high schools when not able to maintain a 6-foot distance (students and adults).
  • Particular avoidance of close physical proximity in cases of increased exhalation (singing, exercise); these activities are likely safest outdoors and spread out.
  • Desks should be placed three to six feet apart when feasible.
  • Cohort classes if possible, limit cross-over of students and teachers to the extent possible.

The AAP recommended block schedules and the elimination of lockers for proper social distancing practices in secondary education.

Experts also released guidance on proper cleaning/disinfection, testing and screening, PPE, food insecurity, organized activity and emotional support for children and staff.

RELATED: A closer look at what schools could look like in the fall