Pediatricians recommend kids back in classrooms to the fullest extent possible

Tens of thousands of pediatricians across America are taking a stand on how they feel about schools this fall. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics is now strongly recommending in-person learning to the fullest extent possible.

“The negative health consequences of children being out of school is quite significant,” Dr. Danielle Dooley with AAP said.

Dr. Dooley says she is seeing more cases of anxiety, depression, obesity and hunger.

“We are cautioning school districts to really start from the premise of how can we have kids in school physically as much as possible, can that be a starting point,” Dr. Dooley said.

AAP is also questioning the benefits of a hybrid model where you have one or two days of in-person learning coupled with online lessons. Many school districts in Washington are learning towards that model.

“We want people to think very carefully about whether that 1 or 2 days a week will be beneficial enough,” Dr. Dooley said.

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Their recommendation stems in part from new studies that Dr. Dooley says show children may be less likely to contract and spread COVID-19.

“There are more people in the school building than children,” Kent Education Association Christie Padilla said.

Padilla represents teachers in the Kent School District. She says she agrees with the AAP and the importance of getting kids back inside the classroom. She says the sentiment is the same but the reality of pulling off full time learning in the classroom with the long list of social distancing rules is almost impossible.

“Remain 6 feet apart, kids need to wear masks, we need to look at how are we going to wash our hands and take temperatures,” Padilla said.

Padilla also says there are teachers and other school personnel who are in high-risk categories that they have to consider.

Q13 News spoke to parent Beth Witecki on Friday and she weighed in about AAP’s recommendation.

“Even as a pediatric association to be making a broad and sweeping statement is I think really premature,” Witecki said.

In Witecki’s opinion, there is still so much we don’t know about the virus.

She says she understands the logistical challenges schools are facing. Witecki’s 14 year-old daughter Leigha is going to be a sophomore at Stadium High School in Tacoma. Witecki says strategizing is hard for so many families.

“It’s been really taxing to figure out what the best strategy would be,” Witecki said.

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At this point, they feel ok about sending their daughter back into the classroom after taking Leigha’s wishes into consideration.  

“For her mental and emotional health, I feel it’s more important to take that risk on her own I do believe they should be social distancing,” Witecki said.

The family supports a hybrid model but Witecki says she understands why many parents would not support it. Even in her parent circle, Witecki says there are many different opinions and she is especially concerned for parents who cannot stay home to support their kids.

“If I had a kindergartener or 3rd grader that would be much more difficult,” Witecki said.