‘No right decision’: Cleveland Clinic pediatrician gives tips on when, if families should send kids back to school

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — As states reveal school reopening plans and the coronavirus pandemic continues to change, many parents are asking if it’s safe to send their kids back to school.

Cleveland Clinic Pediatrician Dr. Frank Esper said it’s a complex matter that’s different for every family and that will take a lot of planning and consideration.

But, he said, “There is no right decision.”

He gave several tips on how to prepare your family and kids for back to school time and on considerations to make if you are trying to decide how to move forward.

How do you decide whether to send them back if you have a choice?

Esper said it’s a tough decision parents will have to make with their families.

“Based on…is your child someone with breathing problems or more likely to get sick, or are you more likely to get sick. Or is there someone in your house…that is more likely to get sick,” he said.

He said when making the decision, it really has to be “all or nothing.”

“You can’t have one child going to school and one child staying at home, and you can’t have children staying home from school and they’re going around playing sports,” he said.

What if your child lives with an at-risk person?

Esper emphasized that a family’s decision isn’t just about whether to send your child back to school.

But you should also consider that your child will be exposed to others at their school and could bring those germs home.

“(Children) don’t have as many or as bad of symptoms,” he said, “but they can still spread the infection.”

Wearing a mask is one of the best things to do, he said. Children should wash their hands vigorously when they get home. They should take their mask off right away and dispose of their mask or have it washed every day.

Another suggestion is to take their clothing off as soon as they get home and have it washed.

“Change out clothes, make sure they wash their hands, have an alcohol rub or soap and water as soon as they get home maybe even by the back door,” he said.

What if your child’s district is in-school only?

Esper said each school will have its own safety measures in place, whether it be having desks spread apart, reduced class size or even plexiglass dividers.

It’s important to learn about all the measures in place and make sure your kids know what they are to do when they go back to the classroom, he said.

“It’s also going to be even more important to do the things we’ve been talking about the last six months. All about washing hands, wearing the masks,” he said.

Masks

As part of Ohio’s school reopening plan, Gov. Mike DeWine and the state recommend children third grade and above wear masks.

Esper said there are certain types of masks that are easier to breath through than others.

“None of these masks have been evaluated to say how well they work against the virus, so you really can’t say this one is better than this one,” he said. “But any mask you wear is better than no mask at all. ”

He said parents should talk to their kids about make preferences; have children try on a couple of different varieties to find out which masks they feel best in.

“Reiterate to them to cover both their mouth and nose,” he said.

He also emphasized certain sizes are better for certain children.

“You should really tailor your masks to the size of your kid,” he said. “The smallest children will need a different size than older children.”

“We have to make sure everyone is safe”

Esper said most agree school is important — not just to the education of a child but to their development, their psychological wellness and socialization.

“It’s important that school remains a part of their lives,” he said. “Virtually may not be the same, but it’s better than nothing.”

Esper said it’s important to make sure everyone is safe.

“We have to make sure everyone is safe, not just from the child’s standpoint but from the bus drivers standpoint and the administrator’s standpoint. We have to see what’s going on in the community, and what’s happening in the middle of August will be different than what’s going on in the middle of July. And we can only hope it’s improving.”

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