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5 key factors to consider in debate over sending Michigan students back to school this fall

Dr. Sharon Swindell weighs in on back-to-school debate

DETROIT – The American Academy of Pediatrics previously spoke in favor of sending children back to school this fall, but the organization has since walked back that stance.

Members of the organization said all plans should begin with the goal of returning students to the classroom, but acknowledged that won’t be possible in all places, all schools or for all children.

The president of the Michigan chapter spoke with Local 4 about the key factors pediatricians say need to be considered.

1. Funding

“We think if the right safety measures are in place, the vast majority of children would be safe and would benefit from being physically present in the schools,” Dr. Sharon Swindell said.

But that won’t be possible without sufficient funding, Swindell said.

“We have to invest in schools,” Swindell said. “We can’t require them to open without the funding to do so safely.”

2. Protecting teachers, staff

Those safety measures have to protect teachers and staff members as well as children, experts said.

“There are staff and teachers in the school that will be susceptible, and will be susceptible to getting quite sick,” Swindell said.

3. Three W’s for reopening

Swindell said there are three W’s that are must-haves for reopening schools:

  • Washing hands frequently
  • Wearing masks
  • Watching your distance

Parents will ultimately have to evaluate their school’s plan, the level of cases in the community and the individual risks and benefits, experts said.

“I think for each child, it’s going to be slightly different,” Swindell said. “For each family, it’s going to be slightly different in terms of what that risk might be.”

4. Distancing recommendations

“One of the big differences we think with children is that we can be a little more flexible (with) what that distance is between children,” Swindell said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 3-6 feet between students’ desks and at least six feet of distance from teachers.

5. Wearing masks

In terms of wearing masks, it depends on the students.

“There’s no one size fits all,” Swindell said. “There may be modifications depending on the age of the children, the size of the space with which they’re in.

“If the adults are around, the children have to buy in about cloth (face) covering masks and are working with the children to acclimate them to wearing them, and model wearing them. A 5-year-old is perfectly capable of wearing a mask for a period of time.”

Swindell has two grown sons, and she said she would send them to schools if she was comfortable with the plan and if others in her community were following the guidelines.

One of her sons has asthma, so that also would have been a factor for her to consider.


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