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Health Team

What pediatricians are saying about students returning to school

Posted July 13, 2020 6:17 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2020 9:13 p.m. EDT

— WRAL News has learned that Gov. Roy Cooper plans to issue statewide guidelines on reopening schools on Tuesday.

As local school systems weigh their options for traditional classroom education versus virtual learning this fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics has also discussed how to best safely open schools.

Dr. Stephanie Duggins-Davis, a pediatrician with UNC Health believes that returning to school is important for the healthy development and well being of children, no matter the age.

“I have a healthy high schooler and I would absolutely send him to school,” said Davis.

She recommends parents consider the following before deciding whether to go with online or in-class learning:

  • Case numbers in your county
  • The health of your child and those in your household
  • The policies set in place by your school district

“Children in general learn better in school than on an online platform,” she said.

Davis says returning to school is beneficial for all children, especially those who suffer from mental illnesses, have special needs or struggle with food insecurity.

“Social and mental development are critical," she said.

Depression and anxiety can be worsened by being trapped inside during a pandemic.

For now, parents should carefully explain to their children that returning to school means there will be new, important rules they have to follow – including wearing masks, social distancing and proper hand washing.

It may not be ideal, but, it’s the only way they’ll be able to see their friends and teachers.

While experts acknowledge some risk from attending classrooms, they say there’s also a risk – and maybe a greater one – if kids don’t get the full school experience.

After months of online learning, many students and parents are looking forward to the first day of school.

“They all just want to get out and touch each other and hug each other and just get back to normal,” said Eric Lipp, a parent to three children.

He’s aware of the health risks, but he said we will all have to learn to work around the pandemic.

Lipp said, “If parents have to work, you can’t leave your kids at home. And the high school kids who are old enough – if they are left alone, will they get into trouble?”

For now, doctors seem to agree that returning to the classroom is the right move for many families – making it all the more important to teach kids how to stay safe while in the classroom during a pandemic.

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