As schools, parents, and students across Central New York await guidance from New York State on reopening schools in the fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics is weighing in with recommendations. What will school look like in Utica and the surrounding area in September?

Schools across the region have been closed since March, with parents working along aside teachers to deliver lessons. With September just 8 weeks away, many still question what school will look like in the fall - and whether students will be back in classrooms.

The American Academy of Pediatrics say they "strongly advocate that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school."

In a report, the AAP says the benefits of keeping kids home is outweighed by the effects of keeping children home, including a negative impact on learning, decreased physical activity for kids, food insecurity, and an "associated interruption of supportive services (which) often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits" as well as students who may be suffering from abuse or mental health issues.

The AAP goes on to detail guidance for school districts:

  • Desks in elementary and secondary schools being three to six-feet apart when possible (the AAP says "evidence suggests that spacing as close as 3 feet may approach the benefits of 6 feet of space, particularly if students are wearing face coverings and are asymptomatic.")
  • Elementary students should wear face coverings when harms (eg, increasing hand-mouth/nose contact) do not outweigh benefits (potential COVID-19 risk reduction).
  • Face coverings in middle and high school for teachers and students if six-feet of distance is not possible
  • Cohort classes if possible, limit cross-over of students and teachers to the extent possible.

While New York has yet to release specific guidelines, (the Board of Regents is currently engaging a task force to create guidance), neighboring New Jersey has, including mask wearing for all students and staff when social distancing isn't possible, limited class sizes, and desks spread out in classrooms. Lunchroom buffets and sefl-serve lines would be discouraged.

Would you send your kids to school if they needed to wear masks for part of the day? Are you in favor of stricter or more lax precautions? Let us know at beth@lite987.com