Roaring Fork Valley, Garfield County Pediatricians: Schools should be at the top of the list for reopening
Editor’s note: Roaring Fork Schools announced on Friday, Oct. 2 plans to bring grades kindergarten through eight back to the classroom this month. No timeline has been announced yet to return higher grades to the classroom.
To the Roaring Fork Community,
We, the pediatricians of the Roaring Fork Valley, commend the tireless efforts of our community public health departments and school systems as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We all understand the importance of schools for education. Perhaps none of us fully grasped the additional vital role schools play in the overall health and wellbeing of children until they closed last spring.
Although originally necessary to protect the health and safety of our community, it is clear that shutting schools has had negative impacts on students and their families. Depression, suicide attempts, child abuse and domestic violence have increased dramatically nationwide. Despite the best efforts of our teachers, online learning cannot adequately provide individualized attention, equal learning opportunities, nutrition, or the social and emotional benefits of attending school in person.
We cannot eliminate all the risks of contracting COVID-19. There are many factors in our area that cause its continued spread. Where primary and secondary schools have opened in the US, contracting COVID-19 has been shown to be more likely out in the community than in the schools. Given these realities, our community needs to prioritize which businesses, services, and gatherings we value most. We believe schools deserve to be at the top of the list. Unless and until our community leaders impose stricter restrictions on non-essential businesses and gatherings, we advocate for schools to open now.
As fellow front-line workers, we empathize with the concerns of teachers and staff about their own health and safety. We know we can mitigate the risks for all by combining several strategies recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Colorado. Our school systems have already developed extensive plans and have been successful locally at implementing these safety measures that significantly reduce potential disease risk: 1) Frequent hand washing; 2) Social distancing; 3) Facial coverings; 4) Recommending routine vaccinations, including for Influenza; 5) Screening for symptoms of COVID-19 at the door; and 6) Cohorting children and staff into smaller groups to limit the impact of quarantine and limit disease spread.
We understand that returning to in-person learning may not be the right decision for every family, and we whole-heartedly support families who choose to continue with online learning. We are ready and willing to discuss these options with families. But families need to have a choice.
As a pediatric community, we are available to schools for phone consultation, and we will provide timely in-person evaluations and COVID-19 testing when appropriate. We fully expect there to be cases which will require cohorts of students and staff to quarantine and switch to online learning. We will partner with schools and public health, and we will continuously monitor the situation and adjust our recommendations as needed.
We the pediatricians of the Roaring Fork Valley, strongly recommend that students return to full time, in-person learning without delay. Schools are essential for the mental, physical, and social wellbeing of children. Given our improved understanding of COVID-19, its minimal impact on children, and low transmission rates within schools, we stand together in support of the initiatives, actions and funding needed to open our schools. We cannot allow the children of the Roaring Fork Valley to continue to carry the burden of this disease alone, isolated at home, falling further behind while the rest of the community continues to progress towards normalcy. Our children must be our number one priority.
Bradley Holmes, MD, FAAP, FACP David Brooks, MD, FAAP, CPE
Ellen Brooks, MD, FAAP Charlene Guggenheim, MD, FAAP
Dan Galka, MD, FAAP Heather Gardner, MD, FAAP
S. Nichole Feeney, MD, FAAP Colby Quintenz, MD, FAAP
Anna Lorenson, MD, FAAP Kelsea Loveless-Hoffmann, MD, FAAP
Maria Roques, MD, FAAP Alana Shah, MD, FAAP
Carey Levin, MD, FAAP Rebecca Percy, MD, FAAP
Mary Harris, MD, FAAP Michael Goralka, MD, FAAP, FACP
Claudia Nelson, MD, FAAP Stephen Martin, MD, FAAP
Teri Stevenson, MD FAAP William Mitchell, MD, FAAP
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