Almost since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, parents have wondered what school would look like when September rolls around. Now, they know what leading pediatricians think it should look like: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending that schools should resume in person this fall.
The AAP updated their interim guidance for school re-entry earlier this week, as NPR reported, and are suggesting that students should be physically present in school this year, provided safety measures are in place (such as the practicing of social distancing and wearing face masks).
"The importance of in-person learning is well-documented and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020," the AAP wrote in the guidance. "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."
Elementary school students should wear face masks in school when the harms do not outweigh benefits and practice strict social distancing when possible, according to the AAP. When it comes to middle and high schools, students should wear universal face coverings when they are not able to maintain a six foot distance. Teachers should also maintain their distance in these secondary education settings.
All schools should also utilize outdoor spaces when they can, like during class time and lunch, to reduce transmission. The AAP recommends the elimination of high touch surfaces in the classroom to avoid having students spread germs to one another. Frequent hand sanitizing and cleaning is also recommended. The AAP believes that these measures should begin early, "ideally at least several weeks before the start of the school year."
Nearly 55 million students were impacted this spring when schools closed because of the coronavirus and switched to remote learning, according to EdWeek. But a number of those students were not prepared for these changes, detailed a report conducted by Common Sense Media. About 30% of students lack adequate internet or devices to sustain effective distance learning at home, and about 9 million students lack both of these things. Up to 400,000 teachers can't teach because of lack of internet, according to the report.
President Donald Trump has said that he wants schools to reopen "as quickly as possible." "We have to get the schools open, we have to get the country reopen, we have to reopen our country," he said during an appearance on FOX Business in May. "We have to do it safely, but we also have to do it as quickly as possible."
Not everyone agrees with this. According to the results from a survey of 1,907 educators conducted by the EdWeek Research Center, 65% of educators say that schools should remain closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. And 66% of educators are worried about the implications of resuming in person instruction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that virtual learning provides the lowest risk for coronavirus transmission.
Each state will get to determine their own plans to reopen, according to NPR. It will be up to them to determine if schools should keep students learning online, learning in person, or a combination of both. Only a small number of states have released their reopening guidances so far. But with the AAP's considerations in mind, that could change.
"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," the AAP stated.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.