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CDC Releases Guidance for In-Person Schooling This Fall

Little boy wearing mask and backpack

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Key Takeaways

  • The CDC is recommending that children and teachers return to school for in-person learning.
  • Masks, proper air ventilation, and maintaining distance can help reduce the risk of transmission.
  • Although some students may be vaccinated, it’s still important to be vigilant with safety measures.

To the delight of many students, parents, and teachers, the CDC is recommending in-person classroom learning for the fall. The new set of guidelines, released in early July, contain measures to facilitate a safe transition back into the classroom.

From unvaccinated individuals wearing masks to ongoing measures like hand washing and distancing, the guidance seeks to help students, teachers, and administrators stay protected.

What the Guidance Says

The guidelines provide schools with ways to keep attendees safe and healthy. Among the suggestions given:

  • All unvaccinated individuals ages 2 and older should wear masks. Wearing masks consistently and correctly is critical. It’s important to be mindful of mask-wearing when indoors and in crowds.
  • Unlike previous recommendations of 6 feet of socially distancing, schools should provide at least 3 feet of physical distance between students while in the classroom. If not possible, masks and other protective measures will be even more crucial.
  • Earlier protective measures still prevail—wash hands, clean and disinfect surfaces, and cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
  • Screening testing, contact tracing coupled with quarantine and isolation measures, and proper ventilation are important measures to implement.
  • If you are sick, stay home. Get tested if needed.

A complete listing of the guidelines can be found on the CDC’s website.

Trazette Byrd, Fourth-Grade Teacher

Students and teachers can practice social distancing and treat the surroundings as if they are contaminated. Don’t make assumptions that just because a person is vaccinated, you can relax and lower your guard. Wash hands frequently. Inform others when you are not feeling well.

— Trazette Byrd, Fourth-Grade Teacher

In light of the emerging Delta variant, measures to reduce transmission are critical. Educators and experts say that although vaccinations make conditions safer, it’s important to still remain vigilant.

“Students and teachers can practice social distancing and treat the surroundings as if they are contaminated. Don’t make assumptions that just because a person is vaccinated, you can relax and lower your guard. Wash hands frequently. Inform others when you are not feeling well,” advises Trazette Byrd, a fourth-grade teacher at DuBois Integrity Academy.

It's Time to Get Back

Studies have shown that remaining indoors and not having in-person contact has been devastating for children socially, causing a regression in social skills, loneliness, boredom, and frustration. A return to face-to-face schooling has become a necessity.

Kunjana Mavunda, MD, MPH

I think if kids don’t go back, then they’re going to regress even worse. They’re going to start having social anxiety, they won’t know how to deal with people face to face, they might get more addicted to social media and phones. And that in itself is a risk for future problems.

— Kunjana Mavunda, MD, MPH

“I think if kids don’t go back, then they’re going to regress even worse. They’re going to start having social anxiety, they won’t know how to deal with people face to face, they might get more addicted to social media and phones. And that in itself is a risk for future problems,” advises Kunjana Mavunda, MD, MPH, KIDZ Medical Services, pediatric pulmonologist and travel medicine specialist, and former medical director of epidemiology and disease control at the Miami-Dade Department of Health.

Pandemic lockdowns have also plagued kids’ mental health, leading to struggles with depression and anxiety.

“Our students need to be back in school. Kids need the socialization that school offers. I believe that socialization is a part of good mental health,” Byrd notes.

Areas to Watch

The school day consists of more than just time inside the classroom. Other aspects of the day may need particular care to maneuver them safely. Before arriving for class, many students ride the bus. Officials have to determine how students will be seated on the bus. Will they spread out to ensure distancing? Will additional buses and drivers be needed to give kids more space while riding?

Mealtimes also have to be examined. Will students eat outside? Does eating inside mean eating in the cafeteria or in classrooms? Will lunch breaks be staggered? These decisions are up to the schools and are likely to depend upon their staff and availability.

Dr. Mavunda also notes the importance of having enough school nurses on staff in case medical needs arise.

It Takes A Village

The CDC has provided encouraging information to get schools open this fall. But the success of in-person learning will boil down to implementation, and the cooperation of everyone involved.

“Guidelines are guidelines. You have to see each situation, each school, as an individual school, and then apply those guidelines to your school to help your students and staff to keep as healthy as possible,” Dr. Mavunda concludes.

What This Means For You

Opening schools for in-person learning is one step closer to pre-COVID normalcy. The key to making it a successful transition is to implement safety measures, use the CDC recommendations for guidance, and be considerate of others to create a healthy environment.

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  1. Loades ME, Chatburn E, Higson-Sweeney N, et al. Rapid systematic review: the impact of social isolation and loneliness on the mental health of children and adolescents in the context of COVID-19. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2020;59(11):1218-1239.e3. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2020.05.009