By Richard Byrd, MD, FAAP, Chief, Pediatrics, Jessica Lanerie, MD, Associate Chief, Pediatrics, Kara Carter, MD, Associate Chief, Pediatrics, Suma Manjunath, MD, Associate Chief, Pediatrics.

As the school year approaches for many districts, parents are weighing the best option for their children during these uncertain times. While every family must ultimately take into consideration their risk factors and comfort level to ultimately make the decision they believe is in the best interest for them, Kelsey-Seybold’s Pediatrics Department chiefs have put together the following Q&A to help guide parents in their decision-making process. Kelsey-Seybold pediatricians want you to know we’re here for you and your children during these uncertain times. It’s OK to be anxious or uncertain about your decision on how your children should return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most important thing you can do is help your child’s return to school (in person or virtually) be as successful and healthy as possible. We wish every family a healthy and safe 2020-2021 school year!

COVID-19 and Back to School Frequently Asked Questions

Can you explain the American Academy of Pediatrics’ position on resuming in-person school? The number of positive COVID-19 cases varies from city to city. At this time, the AAP supports local government agencies and school districts in determining whether in-person school should resume in your area.

What is the COVID-19 transmission rate from child to child? COVID-19 is a still a relatively new virus. Currently, we do not have reliable data for child-to-child transmission in children under age 10. We do know that children shed the virus and that younger children are more likely to transmit the virus through surface contamination. Children over age 10 are more likely to transmit the virus through respiratory droplets.

Does my child need to wear a mask to school? Each school district will determine best practices for students based on TEA, CDC, and AAP recommendations. Check your school district’s website for the most up-to-date information. The AAP suggests wearing masks when social distancing isn’t possible. This may include while riding the school bus, walking in crowded hallways at school, or while in the classroom.

School may look different this year. Will this cause anxiety for my child? Your child’s school schedule and class rules may be different than last year. Children may have anxiety or difficulty adjusting to this new schedule and rules. It is important to emphasize these changes were made to help keep your child, teachers, and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Bye-Bye Butterflies" is a book that teaches young children techniques to cope with worry and anxiety. You can view it online or borrow it from your local library.

It may be beneficial to begin implementing a back-to-school routine for your child a few weeks prior to the first day of school. This may also help ease your child’s anxiety and help ensure your child is receiving adequate sleep prior to school starting.

If your child has difficulty transitioning to in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact your Kelsey-Seybold pediatrician.

What are the benefits of in-person learning versus virtual learning? In-person learning has been and is the preferred method of teaching. The benefits of in-person learning extend far beyond academic proficiency and include social and emotional development and support. We recognize making personal connections with peers, teachers, and campus staff is an important part of your child’s development.

What happens if my child’s teacher or a staff member at school tests positive for COVID-19? Each school district has specific policies regarding school closures for students and staff who test positive for COVID-19. Many Houston area schools are prepared to do virtual learning in the event of an employee or student testing positive for COVID-19.

My child is returning to school in person after the initial virtual learning period expires. What can I do to keep him/her healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic? We understand the anxiety and uncertainty you may have about sending your child back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few tips for helping keep your child safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Talk to your child about the importance of social distancing and wearing a mask when social distancing isn’t possible.
  • Have your child practice good hand hygiene and hand washing at home before the school year starts.
  • Clip a small bottle of hand sanitizer onto your child’s backpack to help ensure your child can sanitize his/her hands anytime.
  • Encourage your child to speak up if he/she is uncomfortable with a situation at school.
  • Provide a well-balanced and nutritious lunch for your child.
  • Ensure your child is receiving adequate sleep.
  • Continue to see your Kelsey-Seybold pediatrician for well visits and immunizations.

Is it safe to return to youth sports? Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia published a comprehensive guide for returning to youth sports. The guide is meant to compliment CDC recommendations and should not replace medical advice from your child’s physician.

Kelsey-Seybold’s pediatricians believe it is reasonably safe to return to youth sports. Sports such as tennis, golf, dance, and swimming pose less of a risk of COVID-19 transmission than high contact sports such as football and basketball. Those with family members at a high risk for COVID-19 complications may consider waiting to resume sports. If you have questions or concerns about your child resuming sports, contact your Kelsey-Seybold pediatrician.

What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 in children? When should I call my child’s pediatrician? Children can get sick with COVID-19. Symptoms of COVID-19 infection include fever, cough, poor appetite, fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle aches, headache, runny nose, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of sense of taste or smell. We are offering virtual health appointments for anyone with a fever to decide if they need to be tested for COVID-19. If your child tests negative for COVID-19 and their fever persists, we can examine them in the office.

My child has chronic respiratory conditions. Will wearing a mask to school make those conditions worse?  We encourage children ages 2 and older to wear a mask. There are very few situations where a mask may not be appropriate for a child. Many children are healthy and should wear a mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a mask will not cause respiratory issues from preexisting conditions. See also Tips for Parents about Cloth Kids’ Masks

We hope the answers above bring comfort, clarity, and guidance to you and your family. If you have additional questions about COVID-19, please visit Kelsey-Seybold’s COVID-19 resource center on our website or contact your child’s pediatrician.

About the Authors:
Richard Byrd, M.D., is Chief of Kelsey-Seybold Clinic’s Pediatric Department and a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold who cares for patients at the Sienna Clinic. He’s a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Associate Chiefs of Pediatrics
Jessica Lanerie, M.D., is an Associate Chief of Kelsey-Seybold’s Pediatric Department and a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold who cares for patients at the Sienna Clinic. She’s a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Suma Manjunath, M.D., is an Associate Chief of Kelsey-Seybold’s Pediatric Department and is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold who cares for patients at the Pearland Clinic. She’s a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Kara Carter, M.D., is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold who cares for patients at the Katy Clinic. She’s a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.