This is an exhilarating time for children and parents as we head back to school to resume in-person learning. Our children have been looking forward to rejoining their friends and teachers at school. With the ongoing pandemic and the new variants of COVID-19, many parents are understandably worried. So, what can we do to ensure our children’s safety while continuing their education and their social and emotional development?
Schools have adapted their policies and practices to include in-person, virtual and hybrid learning. I encourage you to be proactive and engage with your community and school to help determine which teaching model is best for your children. There are a few decision-making tools available to help parents, including one from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/decision-tool.html.
Learning aside, the bigger question is how can we maintain their safety as they return to school in person? As of now, the vaccine is not available for children under 12 years of age. We can protect our children by maximizing the “herd immunity” in our community—by increasing the immunization rate of those who can receive the vaccine. We can continue to support and encourage our teachers, parents, teenagers and children 12+ to vaccinate against COVID-19.
Secondly, monitoring and maintaining a clean environment at school by ensuring your child’s classroom is regularly cleaned and sanitized, and frequent handwashing and/or use of hand sanitizer is encouraged.
Finally, mask wearing has been, and continues to be, one of the most important ways to protect ourselves and each other. I encourage everyone to continue the use of facial coverings at all times, except of course during meals.
We are still learning more about COVID-19 and its effects on our children. The recommendations will continue to evolve as we learn more. The good news is that, to date, the data continues to suggest that children are less likely to get COVID-19 than adults; and when they become infected, they generally have less serious symptoms than adults.
To ensure our children remain healthy, continue to collaborate with your pediatricians, schools and community to provide balance between our children’s physical health and emotional wellbeing as they return to school.
We live in unique times. It can be very frustrating and disheartening to deny our children their time to shine. However, there are things we can do to allow them the freedom to excel and be children. Join me in working together with our community, encourage everyone who can vaccinate to do so, and continue with mask-wearing and social distancing a bit longer. We can beat this virus, but we need to do this together for our children.