Make entry times more flexible, suspend events and group meetings, gradual entry and exit from the centers, or avoid crowds of family members. These are some of the proposals of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, which has updated the document it presented in May to guarantee the safety of the little ones in this return to school marked by COVID-19. On the other hand, the Cotec Foundation for innovation has presented ‘The school, the first’, a project aimed at facilitating the work of teachers, educational centers and public administrations
Given the imminent opening of schools and the current epidemiological situation, the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP) presents this document that contains a section of recommendations to guarantee the safety of children with chronic diseases in this return to school, prepared by the pediatric specialty societies integrated into the AEP.
Given the current situation, pediatricians reiterate the importance of schools being rigorous when complying with all the proposed security measures, while parents must be responsible when taking their children to school if they present any symptoms, no matter how slight.
“Recognizing the importance of life experience associated with the traditional educational model based on classroom attendance, it is important to adequately foresee how and under what conditions return to schools should occur, and what measures are necessary,” says Dr. María José Mellado, president of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP).
For his part, Dr. Quique Bassat, coordinator of the AEP Working Group for the Reopening of Schooling, emphasizes that “face-to-face reincorporation to schools is done in compliance with the right of children and adolescents to learning and learning. socialization, as basic needs for their development ”.
Children are not particularly vulnerable, but they do have a potential for transmission
With the knowledge gained since the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic, it appears that children are not a particularly vulnerable population to the severe effects of COVID-19 infection.
Cases of severe pediatric disease are rare; generally, most infections are mild or even asymptomatic.
However, as Dr. Mellado points out, “it should be remembered that there is no zero risk. Furthermore, they are a potential source of transmission to other children and adults, although less efficient, especially those under 10 years of age ”.
Back to school: use of masks in children
The document makes recommendations regarding the use of masks in pediatric age. Thus, the AEP establishes that, as far as possible, “children over 6 years of age, as well as all adults, should wear masks while they are in the classroom,” explains Dr. Bassat.
Physical activity can increase virus excretion, so they should also use it while playing sports at school, or during recess, since, “despite the fact that the transmission of the virus decreases abroad, during sports activities it is it is very difficult to maintain the recommended distance of 2 meters ”, warns the expert.
On the other hand, and aware of the difficulties that the use of masks entails among the little ones, it is important “to sow the culture of protection and that they learn to use it without forcing”, emphasizes Dr. Bassat.
Another fundamental aspect during this academic year that must be taken into account is the work carried out by the psycho-pedagogical and school guidance teams, whose interest in students must go beyond the academic-curricular results.
“It is important that schools are especially sensitive to the needs of students with a chronic pathology, integration or learning problems, as well as the possible emotional impact derived from confinement measures or family circumstances,” says the doctor. Bassat.
General recommendations of the AEP for going back to school
Kindergartens and nursery schools (3 -6 years)
Nursery schools and nursery schools (3-6 years) are the areas, a priori, that pose a greater risk in the face of a possible contagion or transmission of the coronavirus. This is due to the close contact between teacher and student, which makes it difficult to maintain a safe distance.
However, as far as possible, it is recommended that young children enter nursery schools from the beginning – albeit with prudence – just like older children, due to the educational nature and pedagogical value of the stage of education. child education.
Nursery schools should limit groups to the smallest possible number of minors per teacher and class and that collective activities such as patio, dining room or siesta should be independent in each group. In addition, teachers must have adequate protective equipment in direct contact with each child.
Children between 3 and 6 years of school
In the case of school children between the ages of 3 and 6, recommendations very similar to those of nursery schools (number of students, dining rooms, playground games…) should be followed, since the risk of contagion remains high.
In this period, which includes the two years of preschool education, the systematic use of a mask is not recommended since it is difficult to comply with the regulations, but physical distancing will be extreme as much as possible, the ventilation of the spaces and especially the hygienic standards such as frequent hand washing.
Primary Education (6-12 years)
In Primary Education (6-12 years old) it is recommended to make the entry and exit time to schools more flexible, reduce face-to-face time as much as possible, establish, if necessary, shift hours and combine periods of face-to-face academic activity with the non-presence.
In the case of these children, the number of students per classroom may be increased, but with greater vigilance of measures of physical distancing, hygiene and surveillance of cases and diagnosis-isolation-quarantine.
The use of a mask in these elementary school students can already be implemented with greater safety, both inside the classrooms (especially if the safety distance cannot be guaranteed) and in the common use environments of the school. The use of gloves, however, is not recommended, as it can facilitate transmission.
Secondary Education (12-16 years)
In the case of Secondary Education (12-16 years) it has been shown that the level of contagion risk is higher despite the fact that the students are capable of being responsible for the measures of distancing, hygiene and protection.
Prevention measures must be followed very scrupulously, since adolescents may be more prone to a disease more similar to that of adults.
“Increasing classes and activities in parks and gardens, including educational outings to theaters, town halls, sports centers, etc., currently unused, is an initiative that should be promoted routinely while maintaining the anomalous situation caused by the epidemic,” he points out. the president of the AEP.
Specific recommendations from pediatricians for going back to school
In accordance with the recommendations issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) to guarantee a healthier school and minimize the possibilities of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during the return to school, the AEP details the following recommendations:
Students and center staff who are ill should not attend school.
Schools should require regular hand washing with soap and water, alcohol, or disinfectant when entering and leaving the classroom and before and after meals or going to the bathroom. In addition, school surfaces must be disinfected and cleaned at least once a day.
The frequent ventilation of the classrooms, as well as the cleaning and disinfection of these should be done every day.
The number of people in each classroom should be limited in order to guarantee this distancing.
Clear criteria for not going to the school must be established, valid for students and staff. Both clinical criteria (malaise, respiratory symptoms, diarrhea, fever, etc.) and laboratory criteria that demonstrate an active SARS-CoV-2 infection. Children who are quarantined for having come into contact with a positive case should also not go to school.
Educational centers must have a clear action plan to manage new cases and what recommendations to make for contact follow-up.
A plan should be established to stagger the start and end of the school day to avoid uncontrolled crowds. It should be done according to age groups.
It is recommended to promote the dissemination of information related to COVID-19 in a transparent and proactive way.