The Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (VA-AAP), representing over 1300 pediatricians in the Commonwealth, continues to support the opening of schools for full time, face-to-face instruction for all children. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is overwhelming evidence of the negative impacts of school closures on the education, development, health, and emotional wellbeing of children.
Many school districts in the Commonwealth are preparing for the fall of 2021, including the offering of virtual instruction for a select few students with medical conditions.
When assessing risks, it is important to recognize that the fall of 2021 will be very different from this past school year of 2020-2021. First, the risk of acquiring COVID-19 in school settings has been demonstrated to be extremely low due to preventative strategies already in place. Second, a safe, effective vaccine has been made widely available to all adults and will soon be offered to children 12 years of age and older. Case numbers should continue to fall as more members of the community are vaccinated.
Virtual instruction should be utilized only when necessary and in consultation with a child’s physician or medical team. Having a high-risk condition as defined by the CDC does not mean that a student needs or requires instruction virtually. Most children with high-risk conditions are able to attend in-person school safely with appropriate precautions and medical management that includes regular checkups and routine immunizations.