Oklahoma Pediatricians & Family Physicians
Outline Recommendations for School Reopening
In an effort to unite Oklahomans in the shared goal of children returning to safe school settings, both for children’s well-being, and to help communities move forward through stress that we are all facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Oklahoma Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (OKAAP) and the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians (OAFP) issue this statement.
Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released guidance on re-opening schools. The AAP states a clear “goal of having students physically present in school” yet stresses that “this should happen with careful measures to keep students and staff safe, and with flexibility to adapt as needed to the community’s prevalence of COVID-19.” The AAP statement also outlined comprehensive guidance that included age-specific suggestions to mitigate potential spread, suggested higher- and lower-priority strategies for schools, and made recommendations focused on specific activities and populations. OKAAP and OAFP support the AAP statement.
Given this guidance, at this time OKAAP and OAFP cannot support a statewide return to in-person school decision for Oklahoma in August. While some counties may have extremely low rates of spread, others have growing numbers of positive cases or consistently high positive test rates indicating that community spread is uncontrolled and testing is not yet sufficiently reaching all infected people. Additionally, safety policies and resources are not standardized across the state, leading to inequitable protection for children, teachers, and families. These disparities are especially detrimental to minority and low-income individuals who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. These factors suggest that opening all schools to in-person learning may not be the right choice at this time.
To ensure a safe school setting in Oklahoma, OKAAP and OAFP recommend the state prioritize the following strategies, which should be implemented in partnership with educators, administrators, parents, and students.
OKAAP and OAFP members are committed to working with state leaders to develop safe return to school plans, including strategies not mentioned here, such as policies for return to school following an illness, contact tracing within schools, quarantine instructions in the setting of positive cases, and providing for meals and other essential services when schools cannot meet in-person.
OKAAP and OAFP join all state leaders in emphasizing the importance of well-child visits, immunizations, and flu shots this year to ensure that children’s physical and emotional needs are being addressed during the pandemic.
To download the Press Release above, please click HERE
For more information contact:
Kari Webber, CAE