Pediatricians make the case for returning to school

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out with a position statement on the importance of children returning to school.

Dr. Colleen Fogarty, the Department Chair for the University of Rochester Department of Family Medicine, discussed the position statement and the implications for local schools Monday during News 8 at Sunrise.

Dr. Fogarty said the position statement, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, gives several reasons why returning to in-person instruction this fall can and should happen. It notes the primary purpose of schools is to educate children. Emerging research is suggesting that the pandemic-related closures of school to date are associated with learning loss for many children, which is likely worse among children with fewer resources.

For children who rely on a school-based breakfast or lunch program, many of these children are vulnerable. Rochester has done a good job of establishing lunch and breakfast programs. Nationally the incidence of hunger among children under age 12 is up to one in five. Some students rely on school-based health centers for their healthcare. Social development is key and there are more reports of behavioral difficulties.

Naturally, the key question is how can we transition back to in-person instruction safely as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Dr. Fogarty said emerging data suggests that children are not the “silent superspreaders” that early reports suggested they might be. “We need to do our best to protect children and the adults that care for them and teach them. We know more about the transmission of coronavirus than we did at the outset. We need a strong program of testing, case identification, quarantining, and contact tracing. We need to ensure that schools have the resources to provide a safe environment for the students, teachers, and staff. This includes face coverings, access to soap/water/hand towels, and hand sanitizer.”

The doctor said adequate staffing is also crucial, noting that having crowded classrooms is a poor choice in a pandemic. Desk spacing is recommended 3-6 feet apart. There needs to be provision for substitute teachers in the event of illnesses. We need to provide for the physical and mental health of students. Dr. Fogarty said being away from school for such a long time has put a strain on everyone.

To read the full position statement click here https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/clinical-guidance/covid-19-planning-considerations-return-to-in-person-education-in-schools/.

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