Without a Vaccine, Should Parents Send Their Kids Back to School?

What Should Schools Be Doing?

Many parents will soon receive a letter from their child’s school (if they have not already) with the safety precautions they are taking for in-person instruction. It will likely include things like social distancing, lunch policies, and hand-washing. Some schools may have students stay in one classroom all day.

But realistically, it’s hard to get a 5-year-old to social distance. Meanwhile, high school students might be able to understand what it means to stay six feet apart, but it won’t be any easier to group teens in one class. One student may be in Advanced Placement (AP) everything, whereas someone else may be in honors English, but a more general science course. This makes it difficult to keep everyone in the same class.

Schools are exploring different models, including having some students come in the morning and others in the afternoon, as well as two-week in-person, one-week remote routines. Dr. Oster believes there will need to be some form of remote option as some students have compromised immune systems or live with someone who does, and there will likely be a need to quarantine as cases will occur. Some school districts, including New York and Philadelphia, also announced they are offering students the opportunity to opt for remote-only classes if they wish to avoid in-person instruction.

The most important precaution schools can take, says Dr. Oster, is to have a clear policy on how to monitor sick student attendance. “Does your school have a protocol for temperature checks? What are you going to do if a kid spikes a fever in the middle of the day?” she says.

Wearing masks can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Experts recommend that people over the age of 2 wear one, and Dr. Nachman suggests parents look for one in a school’s policy.

The CDC also offered guidelines to help stop the spread in schools, pointing out that full sized, in-person classes pose the highest risk. Small, in-person classes with students at least six feet apart and not sharing objects is less risky while virtual-only classes pose the lowest risk.

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