Skip to main content Skip to navigation
We care about your privacy. Read about your rights and how we protect your data. Get Details

Coronavirus Update:What patients and families need to know

Public Health Guidelines for Returning to School

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated their COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools on July 18, 2021. The goal of the guidance is to "support communities, local leadership in education and public health, and pediatricians collaborating with schools in creating policies for safe schools during the COVID-19 pandemic that foster the overall health of children, adolescents, educators, staff and communities and are based on available evidence."

Additionally, the AAP guidelines are focused on "keeping students safe, since not all students will have the opportunity or be eligible to be vaccinated before the start of the next school year. Since the beginning of this pandemic, new information has emerged to guide safe in-person learning. Remote learning highlighted inequities in education, was detrimental to the educational attainment of students of all ages and exacerbated the mental health crisis among children and adolescents." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their guidance to align with the AAP. Both the AAP and CDC guidance emphasize that safely returning to school for in-person learning is a priority.

Key principles in the AAP guidance include:

  • All eligible individuals should receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • All students older than 2 years and all school staff should wear face masks at school (unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use).
  • Adequate and timely COVID-19 testing resources must be available and accessible.
  • It is critically important to develop strategies that can be revised and adapted depending on the level of viral transmission and test positivity rate throughout the community and schools, recognizing the differences between school districts, including urban, suburban and rural districts.
  • School policies should be adjusted to align with new information about the pandemic; administrators should refine approaches when specific policies are not working.
  • Schools must continue to take a multi-pronged, layered approach to protect students, teachers and staff (i.e., vaccination, universal mask use, ventilation, testing, quarantining, cleaning and disinfecting). Combining these layers of protection will make in-person learning safe and possible. Schools should monitor the implementation and effectiveness of these policies.
  • Schools should monitor the attendance of all students daily inclusive of in-person and virtual settings. Schools should use multi-tiered strategies to proactively support attendance for all students, as well as differentiated strategies to identify and support those at higher risk for absenteeism.
  • School districts must be in close communication and coordinate with state and/or local public health authorities, school nurses, local pediatric practitioners and other medical experts.
  • School COVID-19 policies should be practical, feasible and appropriate for a child or adolescent's developmental stage and address teacher and staff safety.
  • School policies should be guided by supporting the overall health and well-being of all children, adolescents, their families and their communities and should also look to create safe working environments for educators and school staff. This focus on overall health and well-being includes addressing the behavioral/mental health needs of students and staff.
  • These policies should be consistently communicated in languages other than English, when needed, based on the languages spoken in the community, to avoid marginalization of parents/guardians of limited English proficiency or who do not speak English.
  • Ongoing federal, state and local funding should be provided for all schools so they can continue to implement all the COVID-19 mitigation and safety measures required to protect students and staff. Funding to support virtual learning and provide needed resources should continue to be available for communities, schools and children facing limitations implementing these learning modalities in their home (e.g., socioeconomic disadvantages) or in the event of school re-closure because of a resurgence of SARS-CoV-2 in the community or a school outbreak.