While school boards and districts across the country have been trying to decide how (and where) to start school this fall, they’re getting some more input.
This time the advice comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), who released a statement earlier this week.
The AAP recognizes that multiple factors are at play, including the health and safety of students and teachers alike. But they concluded:
The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.
That’s right. Pediatricians across the country are suggesting in-person learning — when safely possible — over remote learning this fall. This declaration feels a bit shocking, but let’s take a look at their reasoning
What’s the AAP’s Reasoning for In-Person Learning?
According to the AAP statement, the reasoning is pretty straightforward. With so much time away from school, many kids who need help aren’t getting it. Specifically:
Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance abuse, depression, and suicidal ideation… Beyond the educational impact and social impact of social closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.AAP
But many parents are wondering: is in-person learning truly feasible? And safe? The statement addresses those concerns and offers “strategies for infection prevention.”
The document — which can be read here — goes over ideas for physical distancing measures for a variety of age groups. It also addresses the needs of kids in Special Education, a group that many felt were left behind during remote learning. It also continues with strategies related to cleaning and disinfection, as well as testing and screening.
Through it all, the document tries to focus on practical solutions. After all, desks six feet apart, as the CDC recommended, wouldn’t work in most schools. It also talks about different ways to support the mental health needs of students (and staff). In that way, the statement provides some useful guidance.
Is it a one-size-fits-all approach? Not at all, and the authors of the statement recognize that. Every district is different. The needs of each child are different. But one thing is for certain: many kids need more support. An in-person learning environment can give them that, even if school operates differently than it did in the past.
As the statement shares:
The recommendations in each of the age groups below are not instructional strategies but are strategies to optimize the return of students to schools in the context of physical distancing guidelines and the developmentally appropriate implementation of the strategies. Educational experts may have preference for one or another of the guidelines based on the instructional needs of the classes or schools in which they work.AAP
While some of the “considerations” are useful, it’s still important to note that they’re just that: guidance and ideas. Every school — and every parent — will have to decide what’s best for their kids once school returns in the fall.