American Academy of Pediatrics clarifies stance on reopening schools

New statement says science, local experts should help decide school reopenings

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out with an updated statement regarding the reopening of schools.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out with an updated statement regarding the reopening of schools.

It reads in part:

“Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff. Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools. Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics. We should leave it to health experts to tell us when the time is best to open up school buildings, and listen to educators and administrators to shape how we do it.”

“Local school leaders, public health experts, educators and parents must be at the center of decisions about how and when to reopen schools, taking into account the spread of COVID-19 in their communities and the capacities of school districts to adapt safety protocols to make in-person learning safe and feasible. For instance, schools in areas with high levels of COVID-19 community spread should not be compelled to reopen against the judgment of local experts. A one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for return to school decisions.”

“The original guidance was always written as being a strong advocates for the goal of kids physically being present in school with a lot of things to consider and that’s where things got misrepresented and misunderstood,” said Dr. Candice Jones.

For the full statement, click here.

Jones is a spokesperson for the AAP and said while it is beneficial for kids to go to a brick-and-mortar school, COVID activity should be considered.

“We have to consider COVID activity in the community. If numbers are up, we may need to pause or delay and consider input from health officials, teachers and parents. This should not be politically motivated, we have to think about what’s best for kids, teachers and families,” said Jones.

With Orange County positivity cases the highest ever in the last week Dr. Annette Nielsen, owner of Tree House Pediatrics, said she is giving her recommendations.

“Right now, no, I don’t think Orange County has any business opening. If we’re talking about opening up the convention center as potential bed overflow areas, why are we sending kids to school,” said Nielsen.

Nielsen has been a pediatrician for more than 15 years and said parents and health experts are not being heard when it comes to the decision whether or not to put students back in the classroom. She said it’s going to be difficult to expect students to wear a mask for the school day.

“I haven’t had my mask off all day yet today. I put it on at 8 a.m. My nose is dry, my spit is thick. When I take it off at the end of the day - 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. - I can still feel the imprint on my face ... it’s not okay, kids deserve better,” said Nielsen.

She said children may have different symptoms when it comes to COVID-19 but could spread the virus to family members.

“Even now, I don’t want to be the one that says ‘Don’t go to school.’ But I also don’t want to be the one that says ‘I’m so sorry we lost so-and-so because of this...’ I struggle with what to tell people,” said Nielsen.

She said schools, specifically in Orange County should hold off on reopening until all the safety procedures and funding are in place to provide a safe environment for students and their families.

“There is nothing that anyone can do to be 100% safe in preventing kids and teachers from getting COVID in the classroom, let’s be clear on that ... our efforts are to reduce the risk,” said Jones.

While some doctors may have different views or whether or not to reopen schools, they say it’s ultimately up to the parents to make the best decision for their family.

About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.