This evening, the Osceola County School District and its School Board will discuss how it will plan for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year slated to begin Aug. 10.

Will it feature full in-person learning? Digital distance learning, like the last two months of last school year? A hybrid of both?

We’ll find out later this evening, but the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a release this week with a strong message:  the AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.

“The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits.”

The AAP did note that any school re-entry policies should consider some key principles:

  • School policies must be flexible and nimble in responding to new information, and administrators must be willing to refine approaches when specific policies are not working.
  • It is critically important to develop strategies that can be revised and adapted depending on the level of viral transmission in the school and throughout the community and done with close communication with state and/or local public health authorities.
  • Policies should be practical, feasible, and appropriate for child and adolescent’s developmental stage. (i.e. Understanding that digital learning may not be suited for the youngest learners or those with special needs)
  • No child or adolescents should be excluded from school unless required in order to adhere to local public health mandates or because of unique medical needs. Pediatricians, families, and schools should partner together to collaboratively identify and develop accommodations, when needed.
  • School policies should be guided by supporting the overall health and well-being of all children, adolescents, their families, and their communities. These policies should be consistently communicated in languages other than English, if needed, based on the languages spoken in the community (such as considering Osceola County’s Hispanic population).

The full list of AAP recommendations for all school-aged children, from pre-K through high school, can be found at the AAP web site.