Depending on where you live, your children may have gone to school in person during the 2020-2021 school year, or they may have completed the school year entirely online via Zoom and Google Classroom. In some cases, it may have been a hybrid model that combined the two options.

In-person learning was the way most people attended school pre-Covid unless they were homeschooled, but the pandemic left many students communicating with their teachers and classmates via computer screens. Some children suffered with their mental health when they were unable to see their friends in person and were required to learn while in a potentially distracting environment at home. If you think the pandemic has been difficult, just try to imagine what it’s like for children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wants students to return to the classrooms for the upcoming school year. In a news release, Sonja O’Leary, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on School Health explained, “The pandemic has taken a heartbreaking toll on children, and it’s not just their education that has suffered but their mental, emotional and physical health. Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone.” O’Leary emphasized, “We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers — and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely.”

Because many students are not eligible for the Covid vaccine, the APP believes all schools should require students over the age of 2 to wear face masks. Requiring everyone to wear face masks will also prevent schools from having to keep track of who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t.

As long as everyone at a school wears a face mask and frequenting washes their hands, the AAP believes it is safe for students to return to school. According to the news release, “Research has shown that opening schools generally does not significantly increase community transmission with masking and other safety measures in place.”

Despite new variants of Covid, the AAP believes returning to school is important. Otherwise, the mental health of our children is at risk and so is the potential for developmental setbacks. The AAP believes the risk of contracting Covid is less than the risk of mental health issues.

In addition to face masks, the AAP has a few other recommendations about how to keep students safe at school. The AAP believes Covid testing and mental health support should be available to students. In addition, it is important for schools to be able to make changes if necessary depending on community spread of Covid and advice from experts.

If you have children who will be returning to in-person learning this upcoming school year, the AAP urges you to make an appointment with your pediatrician to make sure your children are up to date on all of their regular vaccines including any they may have missed during the pandemic. The AAP also believes it is important for students to get a flu shot.

Are your children going to be attending school in-person this school year?