PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The American Academy of Pediatrics says kids need to be physically present in schools in the fall.
The AAP says evidence shows the academic, mental and physical benefits of in-person learning outweigh the risks from the coronavirus.
“Kids need to be in school. We want that,” says Nina Esposito-Visgitis of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.
“The longer we keep the kids out of school, the more problems we’re going to have,” says primary care doctor Dr. Jennifer Preiss.
“There’s a lot of anxiety and depression about sending a kid to school, but there’s a lot of anxiety and depression related to staying at home,” added Dr. Preiss.
There are also problems related to low income and abuse.
“School is almost a lifesaver for them,” Preiss said.
And the academy says children are less likely to spread coronavirus.
“They said younger people wouldn’t transmit it, and now we’re seeing a spike in younger people now,” Esposito-Visgitis said.
“One death, or one poor outcome of a childhood illness, is not acceptable,” says Dr. Preiss.
The return to school comes with recommendations:
- Physical distancing of at least three feet in class and on buses
- Cleaning and disinfection
- One-way hallways
- Using outdoor space
“Will there be enough bus drivers to space the kids on the bus? Will there be enough people to walk them down the hall? How about the PPE, to pay for the PPE?” Esposito-Visgitis said. “Will there be an isolation room if a child does come in feeling ill?”
The AAP also says masks for children in elementary school and younger are impractical.
“How do you socially distance 3 to 5 year olds?” Esposito-Visgitis said. “Their big goal in life is to be on top of each other.”
“Moving to junior high and high school, I think it’s going to be very difficult. If there is a group of parents that are not of the belief that their kids need masking, that they need to social distance, then that’s going to be reflected in how those children react,” Dr. Preiss said.
Adults in schools will need to distance, including no in-person faculty meetings or in-class parent visits.
Accommodations could be made for kids who have medical risks or special needs.
The median age for area teachers several years ago was 47 years old.
“I never thought teaching was an at-risk occupation, but it appears it likely will be,” says Dr. Preiss.
“A lot of our teachers are taking care of older parents. A lot of our teachers may have an ill child, they may have their own issue with diabetes or something else,” says Esposito-Visgitis. “A lot of our kids have parents that are ill.”
“I don’t want them to close the schools again,” says Esposito-Visgitis. “I’m afraid for the people getting ill. I think we should all be afraid of that.”
Implementing all of these precautions in the schools will cost money. This is a concern of the teachers, as well.