The start of the school year is fast-approaching, and the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) have released a health-related guide to support education and local leadership in creating policies for classroom re-entry this fall.
Health experts say adults are more likely to spread COVID-19 than children.
DESE issued a five-page Q & A comprehensive guide about specific strategies that school districts can implement during the 2020-2021 school year to decrease the risk of transmission and “best protect their students, staff members, and communities, including minimum protocols regarding screening, physical distancing and masks/face coverings.”
Right now, there are no statewide health mandates requiring schools to reopen, but the consensus among educators and health officials is the belief that schools are fundamental to a child’s development and students should be physically present in the classroom this fall. Of course, local school boards and jurisdictions have the ultimate say on re-entry policies and preventive measures of brick-and-mortar.
Yet, the DHSS and DESE are recommending a number of strategies for a safer re-entry, including how to handle positive cases of COVID-19 and manage symptomatic children and teachers.
“While closing school buildings in March was necessary, there are a number of serious consequences that can come from our students not attending school in-person,” said Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven. “These implications are being considered along with the continued risk of COVID-19. Therefore, school leaders and local health officials are working thoughtfully to reopen our schools – knowing that school operations must take place differently to better protect public health and combat the spread of the virus.”
According to their guide, elementary school students should not be expected to wear face coverings for long periods of time in class, because young children have “difficulty complying with the proper use of face coverings.” Instead, young children should wear them in the hallway and on the bus.
On the other hand, middle and high school students should receive in-school training on the proper use of masks and should wear one in class.