With the start of a new school year, a lot needs to happen so that students can learn and thrive without raising the risk of spreading COVID-19.
The goal of having children attend school in person–which is how they learn best–will only be safe when a community has the spread of the virus under control. And then, when it is possible to reopen a school for in-person learning, a layered approach is needed to keep students, teachers and staff safe.
What parents and schools can do
To stay safe, there are a number of steps schools and parents should take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They include:
Physical distancing. The goal for students and adults is to stay at least 6 feet apart to help prevent the spread of the virus. However, research has found that spacing desks at least 3 feet apart and avoiding close contact may have similar benefits–especially if students wear cloth face coverings and do not have symptoms of illness.
Cloth face coverings & hand hygiene. All children over age 5 years and all adults should wear cloth face coverings that cover the nose and mouth to stop the spread of the virus. When worn correctly, cloth face coverings are safe to wear for long periods of time such as during the school day. In addition, frequent hand washing with soap and water is important for everyone.
Testing & temperature checks. The CDC currently does not recommend COVID testing of students and staff. Testing only shows whether a person is infected at that specific moment in time and may not be useful in preventing outbreaks in school communities. Taking students’ temperatures at school may also not be feasible, but you can monitor your children’s health at home and keep them home if they are not feeling well. Schools should frequently remind students, teachers, and staff to stay home if they have a fever of 100.4 degrees F or greater or have any signs of illness.
Cleaning and disinfecting. Schools and parents should follow CDC guidelines on proper disinfecting and sanitizing classrooms and common areas.
Returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic may not feel like normal – at least for a while. But whatever form school takes, it will require everyone’s support to make sure that it is healthy, safe and equitable for students, teachers, staff and families.
Source American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2020)