Children's Hospital Colorado

Children’s Hospital Colorado Shares Guidelines for a Safe Return to In-Person Learning

Children's Hospital Colorado | August 05, 2020
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Update as of August 4, 2020

Children’s Colorado is releasing additional guidance for schools about what they should do if there is student or staff COVID-19 exposure. We’re also providing guidance to help parents make decisions based on facts when it comes to returning to school this fall.

We know every family is different, that’s why we put together a back-to-school FAQ to help parents and families figure out what the best decision is for them.

Children’s Colorado released a guide and Charting Pediatrics podcast designed to help school administrators and board members determine how they can most safely reopen their schools for in-person learning this fall in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The guide, provides considerations and recommendations based on the most current COVID-19 medical guidelines. Children’s Colorado infectious diseases experts who have helped lead the response to COVID-19 helped construct the recommendations, including Sam Dominguez, MD, PhD, Chris Nyquist, MD, MPH/MSPH and Sean O’Leary, MD.

Schools face uncertainty without expert guidance

“Schools have not faced such a significant health issue as COVID-19, at least not in contemporary history, and many rural districts do not have public health experts on staff to provide medical guidance,” said Heidi Baskfield, vice president of Population Health and Advocacy at Children’s Colorado. “Our goal is to give schools the information and recommendations they need to make the right decision for their communities about when and how to reopen for in-person learning.”

Three-tiered risk mitigation

The Children’s Colorado guide for schools and administrators focuses on three tiers of risk mitigation practices that, if consistently used, can support large-scale, in-person learning in school settings:

  • Tier 1: Risk mitigation practices that are the most effective at reducing the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission among students and staff. Those practices include frequent hand washing, practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings and ensuring current vaccinations. Those are widely regarded as commonsense practices, and they do not require a significant financial investment by schools, which is particularly important as schools have seen their funding slashed due to the economic slowdown associated with the pandemic.
  • Tier 2: Risk mitigation practices that have the ability to further reduce the transmission of COVID-19 when used in tandem with the Tier 1 practices. The Tier 2 actions include accommodating students or staff so they are able to stay home if they experience COVID-19 symptoms, quickly isolating students and staff who exhibit signs of illness, using a pod system of education that groups students and staff into a single, isolated group, and eliminating the need for students and staff to touch common surfaces.
  • Tier 3: Risk mitigation practices that, while not core to a school’s re-opening, are important practices to incorporate. These include conducting enhanced cleanings, being aware of and working to manage airflow, and education efforts for students and their families, as well as staff.

Children’s Colorado recognizes that most school districts are under enormous budget pressures given the recent state funding cuts due to the economic slowdown associated with the pandemic. As a result, the risk mitigation practices have been developed to yield the greatest impacts for the least amount of cost possible.

“Shutting schools down has had a negative effect on students, impacting everything from brain development to mental health and wellness to food security,” Baskfield said. “Our guidance is intended to help school districts make safe and sensible decisions to maintain student and community safety as schools return to critical in-person learning as soon as possible.”

Download our free guidelines for returning to school

Download our free, Managing COVID-19 Symptoms and Exposure in Schools, guidelines