Will children be required to wear masks in classrooms? For all grades? For teachers? Now that COVID-19 vaccines are approved for anyone age 12 and up, will school districts require students and employees to get them? What does the delta variant mean for schools?
Will schools still offer remote classes? If so, what will that look like? Masks
Schools are six weeks from opening day. When school ended in June, masks were still mandatory for everyone inside school buildings but not outside. Will that change this fall, and who will decide?
And, they involve multiple jurisdictions setting rules. The state, county health officials and school districts will weigh in. So will parents. These are huge questions. Parents, students and school district employees have strongly held opinions that are often in conflict. The answers rely on medical, legal, financial, social and political issues that can change.
The state released its school health rules last year in a 145-page document July 17, 2020. Experts say it will be up to New York state. The health department will likely issue guidelines, but when is a big unknown. Sooner is better than later, says Robert Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.
In contrast, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends masks for all students and staff, whether vaccinated or not. Health experts agree masks likely will be mandatory in elementary schools where younger students — those under 12 — can’t get the COVID-19 vaccine yet. Requiring masks for younger kids makes sense, said David Larsen, an epidemiologist and public health professor at Syracuse University. The CDC now recommends children aged 2 and older wear masks when indoors if not fully vaccinated. If vaccinated, kids in schools should not have to wear masks, according to the CDC. Students aged 12 and younger can’t get vaccinated yet, so they would have to wear masks inside schools.
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