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Experts urge schools to reopen for kids’ well-being

(Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune)
Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 9:43 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics are urging schools to try and reopen with in-person classes this fall.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says it’s a matter of children’s well-being.

Although distance learning played a crucial part in education during the first few months of the pandemic, pediatric care specialists say current evidence points to the benefits of in-person learning.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics had to weigh the pros and the cons and we’ve seen a lot of negative effects of children being out of school,” Division Chief of Pediatric Critical Care at MUSC Children’s Health Dr. Elizabeth Mack said. “It’s much more than education, it’s counseling, physical therapy, occupational therapy. So many services are offered through the school system so it’s not just a matter of education, it’s a matter of the whole child’s health.”

Abby Kazley has three children that will be attending East Cooper Montessori Charter School.

She says she feels like they are missing out on important pieces of their educational experience while being out of the classroom.

“I want them to be able to reach their full potential, and I think their best chance of doing that is going to be within the classroom with their teachers and their friends,” Kazley said.

A lot is still unknown about the coronavirus, but Mack says children are much less likely to get infected and to be carrying the virus.

That doesn’t mean that children won’t get infected. That’s why experts are hoping schools will reopen safely. The AAP has laid out a series of safety guidelines and protocols for schools to follow as they reintroduce in-person classes.

Mack says there are some strategies that won't be effective, like testing every child or conducting temperature checks.

Instead, she says a better idea would be to implement a symptom-based strategy where parents and teachers are on the look out for a list of symptoms that could appear.

Susan Dixson is the parent of a 19-year-old and a 17-year-old. She says distance learning was especially difficult for her high school student. She agrees with the suggestion to re-open schools, but hopes there are accommodations for students and teachers that need it.

“I’m fortunate that my children are very healthy and they don’t have any underlying health conditions that cause me to worry, but if I were a parent of a child with those needs I would expect that to be honored and respected,” Dixson said. " In that same case there may be teachers that aren’t ready to go back either.”

According to a USA TODAY poll conducted in May, 1 in 5 teachers said they are unlikely to go back to school if classrooms re-open this fall.

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