Seth Ammerman, MD FAAP FSAHM FASAM Alliance Medical Center Healdsburg CA and Mission Neighborhood Health Center San Francisco, CA
Evidence suggests that elementary school age children seem to be the least impacted by Covid-19 although they are carriers and potentially spreaders. They are precious and we must protect them.
Elementary school age children of first responders and essential employees that must work need a safe place to spend their days. The community needs first responders and essential employees.
Children that are food insecure and have special needs need a safe place to spend their school days.
Have children from these populations (#2 and #3) ONLY, report to the same school building, room, and desk every school day. This would be called a pod. Social-distancing is carried out in the pod setting, e.g., desks in the pod are positioned to provide for sufficient indoor social-distancing.
The pod is comprised of five to ten students and one adult in a classroom. Or alternatively, maybe more students could be accommodated with adequate social distancing guidelines in cafeterias, auditoriums, gymnasiums, or similar large spaces.
The adult in the pod could be a teacher if that is feasible, or could be a para-professional. Regardless, the adult is provided with all the necessary PPE and protection needed to remain safe, and keep students safe, while supervising them.
All student bring their laptops and supplies to their pod. When they report to their pod, they use their laptop to interact with their assigned virtual teacher (if the adult in the classroom is not a teacher), and classmates who may be learning from home or other pods. This could help to provide an equitable education to all populations as well.
If a student has siblings in the same school system, they report to the same pod even if they are middle school students (assuming the parent would like the middle school student to attend the pod).
Students wear masks except during eating or drinking, and conversation is quiet in the pod as lunch is eaten.
Covid-19 screening with temperature checks are performed for each adult and student as they enter the building. This will not catch every case, but it will potentially catch some.
Students receive a schedule with an assigned teacher or teachers just as they have in any other school year. Teachers work virtually with their students who would be learning either from a pod or from home. Students would have the advantage then of knowing their instructor and their classmates in their transition to a face to face classroom when it is safe for people to return to gathering in person. Being able to run schedules and teacher assignments as a school district normally does, may help with the task of scheduling.
School counselors should also be available virtually to help as usual with student issues, which may be more escalated due to the Covid Pandemic.
Below is a link to a recent NY Times article on “The Risk That Students Could Arrive at School With the Coronavirus.” It includes an interactive map by every county in the USA.
Dr. Ammerman was a graduate of Bethesda Chevy Chase High School. He founded the Teenvan for Homeless Youth. His nephews are the third generation of his family to practice at Washington Neurosurgical Associates.