By Makenzie O'Keefe

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– As school districts prepare to reopen for in-person learning this fall, a team with Children’s Hospital Colorado is helping to safely guide them through the process. They’ve released a guide, that combines pediatric advice with the most up-to-date information for student safety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We know we can’t eliminate risk,” explained Dr. Sam Dominguez, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “But we think that we can try to mitigate risks to make it the safest environment for our children come to school.”

Knowing schools offer many essential resources that go beyond learning, such as meals and mental health services, Dominguez encourages students to head back to school this fall. He said the guide created by himself and his team, provide guidelines for schools in three different tiers. The first, being reducing risk of COVID-19 through things like hand washing and social distancing.

“We know that the virus spreads through respiratory droplets so it’s best to keep kids as far away from each other as possible,” Dominguez said. “I don’t think they need to adhere to strict guidelines of numbers, but they really need to come up with strategy where kids don’t have to be so close together.”

Through several school town halls, the team has talked with educators around the stare about create social distancing options like pod learning. That would place students in specific groups they’ll work with daily, to reduce interaction with large groups.

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“If you’re re not interacting with all these other people within the school, if one person gets sick they really only affecting their own little pod,” Dominguez explained. “They’re not impacting the whole school.”

Wearing masks in the classroom is recommended. The guide shows that there is accumulative data to show that masks do help to protect others, however Dominguez said schools should consider that what works for high school students may not work for younger students.

“They often may be touching their face while they have a face covering on, play with it more, taking it on and off,” Dominguez said. “And that’s doing the opposite of reducing the spread of infection.”

It’s a resource of up-to-date medical guidance for schools, as the COVID-19 trends continue to shift.

“Even if kids play a minor role in terms of spread, what happens in the home is important,” explained Dominguez. “What parents are doing and how they’re interacting with the world is also very important in terms of the success we’re going to have in terms of opening the schools in the fall.”

Makenzie O'Keefe

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