Doctors weigh in as parents decide how children will return for new school year

Kids in school
Posted at 6:20 PM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 06:39:36-04

TAMPA, Fla. — In a matter of weeks, kids across the Tampa Bay area will be back in the classroom, but how they go back to school might not be the easiest decision for some parents.

“I think those are the parents of those under 12 children who really have, in my opinion, the toughest sort of decision to make about how they want that to look and how they’re going to send their child to school safely,” said Dr. Allison Messina, the chairman of the Division of Infectious Disease at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.

More than a year later, families are still navigating through the pandemic, and right now, only people who are 12 years old and up are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Messina explains what parents should consider for school, first for kids who aren’t vaccinated because they’re too young.

“In most schools that I’ve heard of around here and in other places in the country, masks are going to be optional,” said Messina. “So to me, that does not mean you don’t have to wear them, it means they’re optional and that you can wear them, and I think that would be a good idea for anybody that is learning inside in a group of people where the majority are not vaccinated.”

If your child is older than 12, Dr. Messina says you should consider getting the vaccination process started if they haven’t gotten the shot already. She says you’ll also want to think about your child’s health.

“If you have a child who has a high-risk condition, let’s say, then that’s something I think that parents should be discussing with their pediatricians about the safest way to send the child back to school,” said Messina.

If your child goes back to school in-person, Dr. Messina explains we’ve also learned how important it is not to send your child to school if they’re not feeling well.

“Pre-pandemic, this was something that I think would happen quite frequently because a lot of times, mild cold-like illness wasn’t something that people would stay home for,” said Dr. Messina. “But now, it kind of, it is, and I think that what we’ve discovered is that’s really not a bad idea when it comes to keeping our communities healthy.”