Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

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Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children
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Source: Dignity Health

As school districts consider how to reopen, Dignity Health Central Coasts wants community members to be informed of precautionary measures to minimize exposure of COVID-19. Renowned pediatricians Rene Bravo, MD, FAAP of San Luis Obispo, and Santa Maria pediatrician Ricardo Flores, MD, discuss steps parents can take to help protect children, teachers, and administrators as they prepare to head back to school.

“Parents are concerned for the health and well-being of their children as they return to the school setting, and as partners in health care, we want to share best practices for minimizing risks of exposure to the children in our communities,” says Dr. Bravo. “As we enter the new school year, taking precautions against getting or spreading the virus will help flatten the curve, and get us moving toward resuming more typical schedules and school days.”

Dr. Bravo encourages gentle, age-appropriate conversations between parents and children to review hygiene practices, such as the importance of hand washing and coughing or sneezing into your elbow. Daily parental monitoring of children’s temperature and overall health and wellness is also essential, and keeping unwell children home is recommended. Ongoing conversations about how the pandemic may alter the school day will help provide awareness and understanding to children when they encounter changes, such as the discontinuation of shared drinking fountains on school campuses. Frequent conversations with children will help them better recognize and implement these precautionary steps.

“We are proud to partner with local hospitals to educate the community about how to best protect their children during this pandemic,” says Santa Maria pediatrician Dr. Flores. “We want to do our part to keep local parents and children informed are about how to stay safe and healthy as they return to some regular activities.”

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released guidelines for reducing the spread of the coronavirus and maintaining a safe and clean school building:

·       Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in the school and on buses at least daily.

·       Limiting the use of shared art supplies, toys, and gym equipment.

·       Keeping each child’s belongings separated from others.

·       Ventilation systems with circulation of outdoor air.

·       Space seats and desks at least six feet apart. Turn desks that face each other to face the same direction or have children sit on one side of a table.

·       Create space on buses by keeping one child per row and skipping rows if possible.

·       Install barriers and sneeze guards where needed, like in offices, or tape lines on floors or sidewalks.

·       Close all communal spaces like cafeterias, dining halls and playgrounds.

·       Have children bring their own meals or serve individually plated meals in classrooms with disposable utensils.

·       Setting staggered arrival and drop-of times to limit contact between students and parents.


The CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings for teachers and students to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under the age of two.

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tsunami67 Jul 08, 2020 05:58 PM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

Yes, the students need socialization but no one is saying they can never go to school again! This is how a lot of these comments read. Would it really be so devastating to the students if classes didn't get back to a more traditionally "normal" situation until January 2021? I think the worst thing that could happen is that children get Covid. There are still too many unknowns with this virus and its long term systemic effects.

Could the school year start earlier so there is potentially more days to be in school? If there was a Covid flare up, and there was some extra days, it would be possible for students to stay at home during the worst of the flare up.

Can school districts start offering small group remedial summer schools now? These would be remedial only in that they would go over the content taught online in the spring. These summer school classes would give the districts a chance to try out their social distancing plans without the pressure of all the students. Because it was summer school, the teachers would get extra pay for their time.

Could the school day be longer so that more information is covered while the students are in class? This would generate more at-home assignments for the (next) day when the student is not on campus. If a normal school day is 6 teaching hours, the revised on campus day would be 8 hours and the virtual assignments to be completed the next day at home would average about 4 hours to complete.

Could there be pods of students who go to work with their parents? If an employer has space, would a company let students accompany their parents to the workplace? The students would all be in one room and they would be all working on their virtual assignments. Maybe too Pollyanna of an idea, but I'm imaging the students helping each other and making new friends.

Saying that schooling has to get back to normal is not moving forward with finding a solution that is safe for students and teachers. There has to be a solution out there that checks all the boxes (safety, socialization, academics) and I think we all need to brainstorm to find it.

a-1594233971 Jul 08, 2020 11:46 AM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

School districts are passing the buck onto day care programs for working parents. Doesn’t seem right to me. School have big fields to use to spread out students, while daycare centers are usually much smaller.

letmego Jul 09, 2020 09:06 AM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

SACJON, actually your kids get more electives with the 4 periods, if they want. It's basically like the existing block schedule at San Marcos. 4 classes in fall, 4 in spring (if they want). The difference is, you don't have, say, math every day for a year. You have math in the fall and physics in the spring. You have Spanish in the fall and English in the spring. PE is still required.

sacjon Jul 08, 2020 11:54 AM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

LETMEGO - I just got an email from DPHS about this new 4 class schedule. So now the kids lose out on electives? I'm assuming their PE and elective classes will be the ones dropping. This is stupid. If the school is open to kids 2 days a week instead of 5, how much is that really lowering the risk of infection? Just open it up completely or don't at all. Kids are now going to lose out on school AND still be at risk of infection at the same time!

letmego Jul 08, 2020 11:00 AM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

To be truthful, the reason why we don't understand it is because the district hasn't been completely clear on how a hybrid would work. They've put out possible schedules (in person 2x a week, at home other days, Weds virtual.) However, details are missing (and perhaps that is because they haven't fully worked them out). Example, the high school plan is 4 classes a day, two cohorts. Cohort A is in person Mon/Thu and B on Tue/Fri. Nowhere in the plan does it say there will be live "zoom" on your "at home" days. I'm sure that actually comes with some difficulty - simultaneously having in class and at home students. The alternative, taping the days prior or during class for view - isn't exactly easy either. In the case of elementary students, there has been wording about off day curriculum - so it's definitely not clear what the plan is there - to have the Mon/ Tuesday class time be identical? Then the "home" day would just be additional assignments? These are all details that we, as parents, don't have. (And yes, I've read the reports from the school board meetings.) I assume that after the next meeting, we will have more detail.

therealbebe Jul 08, 2020 08:36 AM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

You don't seem to understand how it works. Staggered school schedules mean that half the kids are online while the other half are in school. The curriculum happens concurrently and both groups are learning it every day. The kids at home on those days just do the work virtually, at the same time. They don't just get days off of the curriculum. What's the problem with that?

420722 Jul 07, 2020 10:07 PM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

Amen loose cannon! Let’s get these kids back in school before they end up like some of the commenters here. For the first two months I didn’t let the kids near any other kids. It was killing them. They now have a great bubble of friends they play with daily, they are having a blast and I believe it will absolutely save them from depression going forward. I will not not let covid make my child need therapy. Socializing is what they need.

LooseCannon Jul 07, 2020 08:54 PM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

My child attends Goleta Valley Middle School, where the quality of instruction via Zoom was extremely substandard. Across the country, educators are reporting high rates of absenteeism for these rubbish online classrooms. Kids' socialisation is being retarded. Teenagers are prone to suicide and isolating them is going to be very problematic going forward. This is going to have repercussions for years and years. How the hell are parents supposed to earn a living with their kids at home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Businesses need to reopen, and kids need to be back in school. It's really time for the elderly and the sick to quarantine. If you feel at risk from COVID, quarantine yourself. We cannot remain in suspended animation indefinitely. (And BTW, I am NOT a Trump supporter. I hate his guts.)

sacjon Jul 08, 2020 09:55 AM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

LOOSECANNON - I agree. My son just "finished" 8th grade at GVJH and the remote learning was silly. I'm hoping to god they don't pull this remote crud again for his first year of high school. Luckily, my wife and I have been able to work from home, but kids need to be IN SCHOOL at least part time to experience life and learn to socialize properly. I don't agree, however, that all should be re-opened at this time. But for pete's sake, get the kids in school in some capacity!

Alexblue Jul 08, 2020 08:56 AM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

Yep, agreed--it's not an all or nothing approach and distance learning for the reasons you mention is not the answer unless there is absolutely no other option. More teenagers will probably die by suicide than Covid as a result of the quarantine--it's a significant, significant threat.

One thing you did leave out, though, Loose Cannon, is that we also need to ENFORCE responsible behavior by our populace, i.e., wearing of appropriate masks out in public. For those who thank that is a curtailing of constitutional rights, or some other BS, please feel free to GFY

letmego Jul 08, 2020 08:28 AM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

There are some other things that need to be considered, besides "parents need to work" and "children need to be in school". Like: children have pre-existing conditions. Teachers, staff, and administrators are often over 50 or over 60, so at risk themselves. Many are caring for elderly parents or grandparents. Many of these students have older parents or live with their grandparents. The risk of spread can be quite large. So if a teacher goes out with COVID, or must be quarantined, do they get paid? How to you get a substitute? Do you know that the substitute teachers at our local elementary are ALL retired teachers? Every last one of them is over 60. Good luck getting subs. Also, 7% of people are immunocompromised. That's a big number. Instruction via zoom wasn't awesome, I agree, but they had little to no prep time (my older kid, also in junior high). A combination of in person and distance (one of the options that is being considered) might be the way they go in the end. It still doesn't help parents of elementary school kids, or older kids who need more assistance. There would be 3 days a week of no in person learning to monitor. Single parents are screwed.

LooseCannon Jul 08, 2020 08:05 AM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

Yes, everyone is at risk from COVID. But some of us, the elderly and those with serious health conditions, are more at risk of dying than others. They should quarantine. I'm prepared to roll the dice, by going about my business, physically distancing, maintaining good hygiene, and wearing a mask when appropriate. Ideally seniors and at-risk individuals would quarantine at home. If they live in multi-generational households, it would be best if they had a well-ventilated bedroom, preferably their own bathroom, and an outdoor patio. If they don't have these privileges, they should be given the opportunity to self-isolate, voluntarily, in college dorms and motel rooms. People who are unemployed and receiving benefits should receive health screenings and those who are deemed healthy should be put to work/conscripted, handing out masks in public spaces, delivering groceries to seniors, contact tracing, etc. Make them feel part of the solution, instead of sitting on their butts binge-watching Netflix.

a-1594185889 Jul 07, 2020 10:24 PM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

As for telling the "elderly and the sick to quarantine", interestingly, in the recent stats, it's the under 50's that are the most testing positive; that's likely to be a result of the opening of the City, especially the State Street "promenade". Not that it shouldn't happen, but that it is middle-aged/younger who are refusing to wear social distance/wear masks.

a-1594168647 Jul 07, 2020 05:37 PM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

Put the teacher on a pedestal in the front of the classrooms to keep 6 feet away; put the students back in rows of desks and install plexiglass sidewalls around each desk to limit coughs or sneezes. Everyone wears a mask. Mission accomplished.

therealbebe Jul 07, 2020 04:29 PM
Local Pediatricians Discuss Back to School Safety for Children

This is so tough. Our kids NEED school to start, at least in some capacity, in person. They are really suffering and will be even more broken-hearted if they have to keep staying home full time come August. And how will parents work?

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