In-person learning isn’t just important for children and teens – it’s absolutely vital. Schools aren’t just places where children learn; they are safe spaces that support their mental, social, physical, and emotional health.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, though, things got complicated. Some schools stayed open, while others adopted a hybrid approach to education with a mix of in-person and remote learning.
Experts agree that children should go back to school this year, but parents have some understandable concerns. So, what are schools doing to keep students safe during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The reassuring answer is that schools are following public health guidelines when it comes to safety. Let’s look at all the things schools are doing to keep your child safe.
Testing And Screening
Screening is a way to identify people infected with COVID-19 – whether they have noticeable symptoms or not. By identifying students who might be contagious before they begin to show symptoms, the chances of the virus spreading decline. Teachers and staff members who are not vaccinated should also undergo screening.
Screening is usually offered to students who are not vaccinated. It is an integral part of slowing the spread of COVID-19 when the number of cases within the surrounding community is high. Screening is a valuable tool for schools that cannot facilitate the maximum physical distance between pupils because it offers another layer of protection.
Screening should occur at least once per week to be effective, and the results should be reported within 24 hours.
If a pupil or staff member displays any symptoms of COVID-19 or has been exposed to the virus recently, diagnostic testing of samples collected by saliva dna collection kits should be done immediately.
All pupils must follow the physical distancing recommendations – including those who have been vaccinated.
The CDC guidelines recommend that all students maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet from any other person in the classroom. The general CDC recommendation for people who do not live in the same household is a physical distance of at least 6 feet.
The difference is explained by studies of COVID-19 transmission among students in 2020-2021, which show that the transmission rate among students who stayed less than 6 feet apart was very low– provided that the school practiced other COVID-19 safety measures.
In addition to other safety protocols like masks, schools should utilize outdoor spaces wherever possible – particularly for activities like exercising, singing, and band.
Wearing a face mask is a proven way to decrease the chances of spreading COVID-19 to people who cannot get the vaccine or are immunocompromised.
People who are fully vaccinated can still contract COVID-19 and infect others – this is why every person over the age of two years should wear a face mask that covers their mouth and nose.
The latest variants of the virus, Delta and Delta Plus, are much more contagious than previous variants and lead to more severe complications. Although the COVID-19 vaccines reduce the chances of severe illness and death, wearing a mask is still the best way to avoid spreading it to others.
Masks should be worn consistently, and they should fit correctly. Most children will have no problem wearing a face mask if their parents encourage them, support them, and lead by example. If your child has a developmental impairment that may impede mask use, consult your pediatrician.
As recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics, all children five years and older should receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and all adults and children should get fully vaccinated as soon as they can.
If your child has already contracted COVID-19 and recovered, they should still receive the vaccine unless they have a condition that makes them ineligible.
Although children are less affected by COVID-19 than adults, schools still need to ensure that measures are in place to prevent spread if there is an exposure.
If a pupil or member of staff has had recent close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, they should follow local public health officials’ recommendation to self-quarantine unless they are vaccinated.
People who have been exposed to COVID-19 and are fully vaccinated should get tested 5 to 7 days after they were exposed – whether they display symptoms of infection or not.
In addition to adhering to the prescribed COVID-19 safety protocols, there are several other factors that schools need to consider.
In the case of children who have medical conditions that are chronic or high-risk, other special precautions may need to be taken.
If your child already has a medical condition that puts them at risk if they contract COVID-19, discuss it with their school and healthcare professional. You may need to consider extra accommodations for added safety or a combination of remote and in-person learning.
Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities may have difficulty transitioning back to in-person learning at school. This could be due to missed time, restricted access to services at school such as speech-language therapy, mental health support counseling, or occupational therapy.
All schools should adopt an individualized educational program and review each child’s individual needs – these services can also be provided virtually.
Emotional and Behavioral Support
Your child’s school should be equipped and prepared to support every child’s mental health needs throughout the pandemic.
In this time, more than 140,000 children have lost a primary or secondary caregiver – the school should be able to recognize signs of distress, depression, and anxiety and help their students get the support they need and provide appropriate counseling.
Extracurricular activities like sporting events, practice, and others may be limited. If a school does offer physical and extracurricular activities, it should follow additional safety protocols.
Until June 2022, all schools can provide free meals to all students, no matter their household income. Many schools offer nutritious lunches via school lunch programs – you can approach your school district for more information.
These meal programs should still be applicable if a student is absent due to illness or if schools are closed.
If schools, families, and the members of the community work together to keep each other safe, students can return to in-person learning.
To ensure that children get the social and mental stimulation they need at school, everyone who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine should receive it. Staying safe also means that everyone should wear a face mask, stay at home when they are sick, and do whatever it takes to protect the people around them.