This year, the usual mix of joy and trepidation that back-to-school month brings for children and parents is fraught with severe anxiety, confusion and frustration. COVID-19 is tormenting decisions that need to be made by school boards, superintendents, teachers and parents – and there doesn’t seem to be an answer that makes anyone happy.
We here at The Center for Advanced Pediatrics know that each of our patient families have different reasons for different back-to-school decisions. We understand that each family will make the choices that will work best for them, and they feel the most comfortable with. Our healthcare providers are here to give you as much information as possible, and support for whatever decision you make to keep all of our children as healthy as possible; physically, emotionally and socially.
Should schools open?
School, from preschool through college, provides our children with vital socialization and emotional skills. They learn how to form real friendships while intuitively learning the social rules and emotions that make that possible, such as empathy, waiting their turn and not interrupting. Kids learn teamwork and begin acquiring leadership skills. Socialization helps relieve anxiety and ward off depression.
For many children, school is where they are the most physically active, which not only helps with physical health, development and childhood obesity issues, but also releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, vital to strong mental health. Having physical access to social workers and mental health professionals within the school system can help prevent problems for years to come.
Lunch and breakfast programs offered in schools may be a child’s only access to healthy meals throughout the day, especially now as COVID-19 has caused record unemployment rates.
Many children do not have access to reliable internet services or a device that is suitable for online learning, which will result in an even greater disparity in education between higher income and lower income children.
Ultimately, children (and all humans) learn best from in-person instruction. In-person lessons also helps motivate students to engage with teachers, lessons and peers. Recent large-scale studies show that, on average, online learning is less effective than in-person. For children who are weaker academically, virtual learning makes their performance “meaningfully worse”. Students with disabilities are the most significantly and detrimentally impacted by virtual learning.
How should schools open?
Your school’s decision should be based on real data of disease statistics in your area. A clear, flexible and reasonable plan for virtual learning should be in place if authorities see an uptick or surge in cases.
Many districts are implementing a hybrid of leaning environments with different pods of children physically present in the school on different days of the week. This solution can help children continue important social and emotional development while keeping them engaged in academics that can be completed at home.
Make sure your school has these precautions in place:
What can I do as a parent?
Practice wearing a mask with your child in your home before school begins. Set a timer to keep the mask on and untouched for 30 minutes on the first day, an hour on the second day, and so on, until your child is used to wearing a mask for the time allotted for in-person learning, including any bus time.
Make sure all your child’s immunizations are up to date, and get your family vaccinated against the flu as soon as the shot is available.
Send your children to school only if they are completely healthy – no sniffles, no headaches, no sign of any temperature.
Follow your school’s and your district’s social media accounts to keep track of the latest learning environment information.
Think in terms of your entire school community. To avoid infection in your family and in your children’s school:
Visit our new COVID-19 Resouces page on our website for information. We are here to answer questions about COVID-19 and to help you make choices for your unique children and family situation. Our telehealth appointments are perfect for these consultations, so please make an appointment today by clicking here. Please note that we will not be able to provide notes to excuse your child from wearing a mask or to excuse a school absence against the recommendations of your school’s Superintendent.
We strongly encourage that your entire family be vaccinated for the flu as soon as the vaccine becomes available. The symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar and it may be quite difficult to distinguish between them if pandemic rates surge. Please watch for our yearly drive-thru flu shot clinic announcements, as this is the most efficient, expedient and safest way to get protected.
Remember, above all things, that everyone at TCFAP are here for you during these unprecedented times.