Here’s What Pediatricians Recommend for School This Fall

If you keep discussing the pros and cons of schools physically opening this fall, you are not alone. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics cannot figure out what we should be doing. Just a couple of weeks after schools first recommended targeting physical presence in classrooms this fall, the AAP is now claiming that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

The AAP released a new statement Friday, this time in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Association for Education (NEA) and the Association of School Superintendents (AASA). This new statement affirms the academic, social and emotional benefits of personal returning children to school; but it also recognizes that local school leaders, public health experts, educators and parents will need to work together to determine how and when schools will reopen, especially given the spread of COVID-19 in their own communities:

Returning to school is important to the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must strive to reopen in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff. Science should inform decisions about the safe opening of schools. Public health agencies should make recommendations based on evidence, not policy. We need to provide healthcare professionals with a solution to tell us when is the best time to open school buildings and listen to teachers and administrators to determine how we do it.

The updated AAP guidelines continue to offer tips for safer opening of schools with all the methods we are now used to – washing our hands frequently, disinfecting hard-touch surfaces, physically distancing as much as possible, wearing face masks, etc. But we also know that this tactic is more difficult to implement indoors and with large groups of people.

The organization’s new statement sounds partly in response to President Trump’s recent threats to cut federal funding for schools if they don’t reopen (which he has no mandate to do).

But AAP, AFT, NEA and AASA say:

Opening schools in a way that maximizes the safety, learning and well-being of children, teachers and staff will undoubtedly require significant new investment in our schools and campuses. We call on Congress and the administration to provide the federal resources necessary to ensure that inadequate funding does not interfere with the safe education and care of children in our schools. Withholding funding from schools that do not open full-time would be a flawed approach, placing already struggling schools in an impossible position that could threaten the health of students and teachers.

For more information on how the AAP recommends schools to manage physical distance, disinfection and hygiene practices during a pandemic, see their full updated guidelines .

This article was originally published in June and has been updated on July 13, 2020 with new AAP guidelines. We will continue to update as needed with any new recommendations.

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