Health Desk – 14 Mar,2021: For many schools around the country, it’s been one of the toughest decisions during the pandemic: reopen school buildings or keep them shuttered.
- A childhood medicine specialist said reopening schools could be successful if ventilation systems are upgraded and physical distancing among children is guaranteed.
- Parents also have a big role to play in ensuring that the transition to in-person learning is successful, the specialist added.
- An air quality expert said one of the biggest challenges that schools might face is the age of the buildings.
For many schools around the country, it’s been one of the toughest decisions during the pandemic: reopen school buildings or keep them shuttered.
Now, with President Joe Biden’s encouragement, many schools are preparing for in-person learning later this spring and in the fall.
In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source weighed in, saying that schools could reopen safely as long as several key mitigation strategies are in place.
These strategies include physical distancing and proper mask use by students, teachers, and staff.
The CDC’s recommendation has been embraced in many quarters, including by the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, as well as by several experts, school administrators, and professionals with expertise in building engineering.
But many schools face an uphill battle in making sure they can reopen while adhering to safety measures.
Steps needed for a safe school
Dr. Kunjana Mavunda, a Miami-based pediatric pulmonologist and childhood medicine specialist, said reopening buildings could be successful if schools are diligent about upgrading ventilation systems, frequently changing air-conditioning filters, and ensuring physical distance between children.
Sanitizers and wipes should be available everywhere in the building, she said, including the school and classroom entrances.
Installing plexiglass between teachers and students will be helpful as well.
Temperature checks should also be considered. Children should be taught not to share things, including drinks and pencils.
School buses need to be frequently cleaned and not overcrowded.
At the end of day, schools should deep clean each classroom, added Mavunda, who is also the former medical director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Health and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
Parents also have a big role to play in ensuring that the transition to in-person learning is successful, she said.
“The parents’ responsibility should be to teach them to wear the masks that fit well,” Mavunda said. “When parents drop children off, they should enter the school only if absolutely needed. Parents need to adhere to school rules, and schools should know the prevalence of COVID in their neighborhood.”
In addition, Mavunda said parents should ensure that their children’s regular vaccinations are up to date, particularly for vaccines that fight respiratory diseases such as influenza.
These vaccines boost the immune system, she said. Keeping up with other vaccines like Tdap and MMR could help too.
Teachers and administrators should also get vaccinated for COVID-19 when possible and stay up to date on their regular vaccinations as well. People in their 50s and 60s may have lost their immunity to measles, she added.