The American Academy of Pediatrics’ issued a statement advocating that children should attend classes in person this fall wherever it is possible to do so safely. In offering its guidance, 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.”
“Schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being and provide our children and adolescents with academic instruction, social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/speech and mental health therapy, and opportunities for physical activity, among other benefits,” the statement said.
The AAP cited mounting evidence that the spread of COVID-19 through children and adolescents is uncommon, and it appears to have a different effect on children than other respiratory viruses, such as influenza, on which much of the current guidance regarding school closures is based.
The AAP cited evidence that remote learning had a negative impact on students during the school closures in this spring. Social isolation can lead to social, emotional and health issues: “abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation,” and severely impacted children of minorities, low-income families and those with learning disabilities.
Although it suggests to continue social distancing, nevertheless it argues, “Schools should weigh the benefits of strict adherence to a 6-feet spacing rule between students with the potential downside if remote learning is the only alternative.”
The guidelines do acknowledge that staff members, many who are in an older age group with one third being over 50 years old, are more at risk, and they need to be able to distance from other adults as much as possible by eliminating in-person faculty meetings and class visits by parents.
There has been some resistance from teacher unions for a return to in person schooling.
NPR reported that when Fairfax County Public Schools of Virginia announced its reopening plans, the teacher’s unions demanded that remote learning continue. “Our educators are overwhelmingly not comfortable returning to schools,” said Tina Williams, president of Fairfax County Federation of Teachers. “They fear for their lives, the lives of their students and the lives of their families.”