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FAQ on School Safety

Is it safe for my child to go to school?

school houseRecent studies have shown that it’s safe for most children to be at school. One large study looked at how many children attending school with appropriate precautions in place became infected with coronavirus. In one month, about 20 students out of 5,000 tested positive for COVID. But 19 of the 20 were exposed outside of school (at home or other activities), and only one student out of 5,000 became infected at school.

 

Why is there so little spread of the virus?

Research is showing that the precautions that schools are taking work very well. Those precautions include:

  •  Requiring all students and staff to wear maskshand washing kdis
  • Requiring physical distancing  
  • Improving ventilation (including by opening windows and doors, providing classroom air purifiers, and upgrading school ventilation systems)   
  • Encouraging frequent opportunities for handwashing or hand sanitizing
  • Mandating daily symptom checks that all students and staff must complete before coming to school
  • Keeping sick children and staff at home

But kids are kids – will they follow the rules?

We know that people aren’t perfect - especially little people! Sometimes children will forget to keep their distance, or someone’s mask will slip down. Schools are planning to help everyone maintain the precautions, and children often do better than adults expect.

 

swiss cheeseMore importantly, by using many layers of precautions, even if one layer has holes they others still provide protection. We call this the “Swiss Cheese Model.” Imagine each slice of cheese is a strategy to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. One slice may be masking. One slice may be ventilation. Still another might be handwashing.  As shown here, each slice of cheese has holes (meaning it’s not perfect). But taken together the slices block the virus from getting through because the other layers help prevent transmission.

 

How do I decide what’s best for my child and my family?

The decision to go to in-person school or stay in distance learning will be very personal. Each family has a unique set of circumstances and experiences that will affect their decision, and each has the right to make the decision that is best for them. Some things to consider:

 

May be better with in-person instruction May be better with distance learning
Does my child say they miss going to school? Does my child prefer distance learning?
Does my child need more time with friends, peers, and their teacher than they currently have? Does my child have a medical condition that could put them at higher risk of getting severely ill?
Has my child’s mental health suffered since being out of school? Do we have high-risk members of our household who are unable to get vaccinated?
Does my child have special needs that aren’t being served by virtual learning? Are we unable to manage transportation to and from school with the current schedule?

Have my child’s grades dropped in distance learning, or do they not seem to be learning as well this year?

Do our family’s personal experiences with COVID affect our comfort level with even a small extra risk?

 

How can I prepare to send my child back to school?

  • You’ve probably already been doing the most important things all year - teach your child to wear a mask consistently, keep their distance, and clean their hands frequently.
  • Your child may need to stay home for even minor symptoms. Or your child’s class may temporarily switch back to distance learning if there is an exposure to coronavirus. Consider creating a backup plan for childcare in case your child is unable to go to school.
  • Get vaccinated as soon as you’re able! Children can return to school safely before vaccination, but the vaccine provides another layer of protection. Coronavirus vaccines are safe, well-tested, and effective. Your vaccination helps protect yourself, your family, and the community at large.

What will next school year look like?

happy children playingMost doctors and public health experts expect that by next fall we should be able to send children to school full-time in-person. School will probably look different than it did before the pandemic, as we may need to continue certain precautions. But even if children are not yet vaccinated, they have a low risk of infection at school and low risk of severe disease if they do get infected. Most children learn better and are happier when they are going to school and should be able to do so safely.