The Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued an 13-point list of recommendations for reopening school buildings. What follows is a summary of the entire document, which can be found here. Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) comments are in italics.
Children must be up-to-date on vaccinations. Currently, 70% of 4-year-olds have completed recommended vaccinations and only 23% of 11-year-olds have completed the Tdap. The State of Florida should require the influenza and meningcoccal vaccines as well. Teachers and staff should also receive influenza vaccinations.
Two: Daily screening
Schools should screen daily for symptoms as children arrive. However, temperature checks are not recommended as they are time-consuming and not sensitive to early infection. Parents should check temperatures before sending their children to school. Children exhibiting symptoms associated with Covid-19 should be kept home.
Use surveillance (contract tracing, GOT presumes they mean) to identify persons exposed to the virus. Keep them isolated; send them home.
GOT agrees temperature checks only detect feverish children. Yet, they do prevent parents from sending their children to school when they should be kept home. Parents face pressures of their own and loss of income when they have to take off work to care for sick children. The temptation can be hard to overcome.
three: student cohorts
Keep groups of children together for the entire day as much as possible.
There’s a reason the middle-school model of cohorts has been abandoned and has never been implemented in high school. Given individual needs for remedial courses in reading and math (thanks, NCLB and successor legislation) as well as elective choices, it is not possible to schedule secondary students into cohorts.
four: physical distancing
Everyone stays six feet apart, wears PPE as appropriate, and do not face one another.
Not possible in most schools. Too many words have been written about mask wearing. Schools can probably be more successful than all the hand-wringing about it if they approach children in a developmentally appropriate way. As for having hand sanitizer and other supplies in classrooms, that depends upon the school district and carry-through by school administration.
five: staggering times
Minimize hallway congestion through different start and ending times for classes. Also, it would promote physical distancing. Eat lunch in the classroom.
Not practical. Students would have to be regimented into lines and extra personnel would be needed to maintain distancing along the line. Keeping students in classrooms to eat lunch means they take off their masks and breathe in the airborne viral particles which may remain in the air for hours.
six: restrooms and cleaning
Regulate use of bathrooms, including enforcement of handwashing. Clean classrooms at the end of the day as well as between classes. Ventilation systems should be in good working order.
Not practical in secondary schools. One teacher cannot supervise a male and a female bathroom for hand cleaning. There are not enough custodians to clean every classroom during a five-minute change. As for ventilation, decades of neglect and mechanical breakdowns require time to mend and resources that governments are unwilling to provide.
seven: special health needs
Children with special health needs should do virtual learning. If that is not possible, their individual health plans should be updated to specify Covid-19 accommodations. IEP students should have their needs met.
The special needs of every child must be met regardless of how instruction is being delivered. It is possible to plan and deliver the services needed if school systems focus on those goals, even if the children are kept in virtual formats. But schools will need the resources to fund home visits as required or to set up special areas within buildings for children to come and receive their services.
Parents who are unable to work during the pandemic to take care of children with special needs should be supported with supplemental income. We have the wealth in the United States to provide social services if we want to do so.
Eight: Old Teachers
Offer them virtual settings. Do the same for teachers with health impairments.
What about all the parents demanding face-to-face instruction? There may not be enough virtual settings for all the teachers who need them.
nine: school nurses
Hire enough school nurses to meet the need. Consider partnering with medical schools to provide workers and ask health professionals to volunteer.
There aren’t enough people for every school to have a nurse. There is a nursing shortage, too. Asking health professionals to volunteer after their professional duties are done is like asking a teacher to tutor for free on the weekends after working a 55+ hour week.
ten: handle all non-covid health problems, too
Children will have other health problems and complaints. Treat those as well. Let the nurse have authorization to talk to family medical providers.
Schools in Florida don’t have on-staff nurses. Instead, a clerk is trained to perform basic first-aid and how to administer medicine.
Eleven: school buses
Set up school buses to maintain physical distancing in the seating. Clean them between every route.
Find the nearest wizard and ask them to perform an undetectable extension charm on every school bus so that the inside is ten times as large as it looks from the outside. Oh, and learn the scourgify charm for the cleaning. Yes, it’s sarcasm, but GOT doesn’t know how else to respond to this impractical suggestion.
twelve: no sports and music outside
The headline is the summary. GOT is not looking forward to school boards telling parents their boys cannot play football this year. Likewise, when you try to take away music.
thirteen: decision table for when symptomatic persons may return to the school building
Check here and scroll to the bottom. This is what we’ve have been told for months.
analysis by got:
We need to thank the FCAAP for their thoughtful, concise, and thorough recommendations. Let us remember that their job is not to make decisions for schools, but to give medical advice for the safety of children’s health. It is likely they understand that their recommendations are not practical or cannot be implemented given the current state of school funding and resources.
It’s not their place to tell school boards to keep the buildings closed. Yet, reading over their advice, GOT has to wonder if this is their attempt to do just that.