COVID-19 and children: how do we keep them safe?

Schools are struggling to teach effectively and keep everyone safe at the same time.

For the first time in around a year and a half, most if not all schools are back to in-person learning. This includes public schools, many of which have students that are not yet eligible for the vaccine. 

The number of positive COVID-19 cases has been going up and it is a reasonable assumption that it is related to school starting this fall, in-person. 

In the Fife school district, according to Jessica Connaway, the district’s COVID-19 coordinator, over the course of two weeks and as of Sept. 22, the COVID-19 dashboard reported that there were six positive cases in their elementary schools and four positive cases in secondary schools. The same time range had zero faculty infections. 

In the Auburn school district, according to their COVID-19 dashboard, since Aug. 23, they have reported 214 positive cases. 85 of those positive cases were elementary school students. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is reporting that “For the week ending September 23, children were 26.7% of reported weekly COVID-19 cases…”. The AAP says that children are only about 22% of the US population. 

In addition to this, over the two weeks of Sept. 9 to Sept. 23, “there was an 8% increase in the cumulated number of child COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic…” according to the AAP. 

School districts are having to be creative with how they keep their students and staff safe while teaching. 

The Auburn school district has a unique way of dealing with the issue of lunch. For the secondary schools, according to Vicki Alonzo, the executive director of communications, they have rented tents for lunch. Kids eat outside as socially distanced as possible. 

However, as fall ends and winter begins, these tents will be useless against the rain that Washington is known for. How will schools keep children safe from COVID-19 and warm from the elements? Can they do both at once?

The elementary schools don’t have any common areas so students are eating lunch in their classrooms while social distancing. These kids are under the age of twelve and therefore cannot get the vaccine. 

In the Fife school district, there have been lunch shields, essentially plexiglass walls, that are put up in the gym, lunchroom, or wherever they are eating, to protect students.

During regular class time, students are expected to wear a mask and maintain a distance of at least three feet between each other whenever possible. 

School districts are also varied in the rules they have for quarantining positive cases. 

The Auburn school district says that if the person who was exposed is not vaccinated they must quarantine but if they are vaccinated they must monitor their symptoms. If the person does not have any symptoms then they don’t need to have a negative COVID-19 test to come back to school. 

The Fife school district monitors how well the student was wearing their mask and social distancing, they will do extra cleaning in the areas where the student who tested positive were. And even if the student is fully vaccinated, they will stay out of school for three to five days, as long as they show no symptoms. 

My personal opinion is that the Fife school district has a more safety-conscious approach to handling positive COVID-19 cases. I feel that they go the extra mile in regards to keeping their students and staff safe.

How will schools pay for these new practices that they must implement to keep everyone safe?  Extra cleanings, renting tents, and putting up plexiglass is not something that schools previously had accounted for in their budgets.

To keep the kids safe, get vaccinated and wear your mask. Call your legislators and make sure that schools get the funding that they need to continue making sure that all of the children, teachers, and staff can be kept safe.