American Association of Pediatrics, the primary professional membership organization for pediatrics in the US last week put out interim guidance on school reopenings. Many ISDs across the nation including Texas, where TEA has struggled to develop guidance, are still delaying announcing fall plans waiting for state educational regulators or CDC to provide guidance on recommendations, as well as relaxation of old rules that would allow safety guidelines and detailed procedures for handling outbreaks to be implemented by the districts.
The AAP guidance recommended: the AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school (bold emphasis from the AAP). Guidance also called for relaxing symptom checking including allowing self reporting and elimination of temperature checks, in order to facilitate large volumes of students into a facility.
AAP did not, however, put out guidance on, or the detailed protocols needed, for testing, outbreak management or detailed safety protocols schools are still working to develop to open safely. Issues like whether to quarantine classes with a positive exposure, whether and how to requiring negative rest results to return, or testing requirements based on symptoms, as state health and CDC guidance currently recommends.
AAP also did not address the concerns in places like Texas, Florida, and California over the lack of available and timely testing capacity, the issues around information flow of sensitive medical information to parents, cost of testing, managing exposure risk to families, or regional outbreak differences that educators consider key to being able to fully reopen in person safely.
However retiring senior executives and the manager at the association's member call center confirmed that despite providing guidance to return kids to physical presence in schools, AAP itself has kept its own staff working remotely, and has not returned to in person work. Staff did not know of plans to return in person. Calls and emails to the executive Director, Mark Del Monte, and Dr. Sara Goza, Board President, and Debra Walton, Senior Vice President, Healthy Resilient Children, Youth & Families described by a colleague as directly responsible for overseeing the publication of the guidance, were not returned.
In contrast, schools like Spring Branch ISD, one of the largest districts in the country in the hard hit Houston, Texas region, have conducted extensive surveys of parents and staff to inform their planning. Senior administration officials are working weekends, and have announced they are actively developing robust virtual options and plans to give parent choice in the return to school decision. Finalization and communication of their plans has still been hamstrung by delays in state guidance changes, limiting their options given union work rules, existing educational guidelines, and the Robinhood attendance based per student funding models in Texas.
However, SBISD survey data showed 70% of parents supported allowing any student to learn virtually if they wanted vs 15% that did not. Almost a quarter said they would keep children at home for learning depending on the schedule if given the option, however in the same surveys conducted before the current outbreak, 59% vs 20% said they would keep their children at home if "cases were increasing in the community", indicating strong interest in parent choice/adaptable physical attendance and virtual education policies. Source: Complete SBISD COVID response parent/staff survey results
It is concerning that AAP guidance seemingly calls for contradicting its own current internal practices, as well as contradicts the work going on in the educational community for flexible online options, and publicly available parent survey data, potentially putting children and families at serious risk.