Back to School: A Parent’s Guide

Two pediatric experts discuss why it’s important for kids to return to in-person learning and how to keep them safe at school.

This back-to-school season, with children returning to in-person learning full time, many parents are understandably feeling a mix of excitement and anxiety. While health officials and schools have put safety measures in place to control the spread of COVID-19, parents still have questions, especially since children under 12 are not yet able to get vaccinated.

“I do believe that if we utilize the layered approach that the CDC recommends we can help limit transmission in schools,” says Dr. Karen Acker, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine. “Approaches such as vaccination for those who are eligible, universal masking, screening for infection, hand hygiene, physical distancing, and optimizing ventilation continue to be important measures. This is referred to as the layered approach because it is not just one measure, but layering multiple measures together which have shown to be effective in limiting transmission.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics is strongly advocating for in-person learning, stating in its guidance that “the benefits of in-person school outweigh the risks in almost all circumstances.”

“Of course, everyone is rightfully worried about keeping kids safe, but we can’t forget why we’re sending them to school in the first place — so that they learn, socialize, and experience some normalcy,” says Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, director of pediatric telemedicine at NewYork-Presbyterian’s Ambulatory Care Network and assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “That’s what is best for kids and what they need, and the reason we are doing everything we can to protect them from COVID-19 — so that they can get back to learning.”

Here’s what parents can do to get their kids ready to head back to the classroom.

For more helpful back-to-school advice from Dr. Acker and Dr. Bracho-Sanchez, watch their Instagram Live discussion here.

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