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Returning to School During COVID-19


The most frequent question I am being asked in my practice by parents is how students can go back to school safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent advice directed from both the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that children learn best when they are in school. This guidance is based on what physicians and infectious disease specialists know about COVID-19 and children. Evidence thus far suggests that children and adolescents may be less likely to have symptoms or severe disease from infection, as well as, less likely to become infected or spread the virus. However, children can still become ill, so returning to school in person requires the need for careful steps and protocols to be set and in place to keep students and staff safe.

As a partner of Changebridge Medical Associates, a member of Consensus Health, in Montville, and a physician in our community for over 30 years, I am leaning on not only the medical expertise of myself and the providers in my practice but also on local and national health experts, local school leadership, educators and parents to decide the how and when of reopening our schools will be the safest. This is a monumental decision that will affect our entire community as it needs to take into account the spread of COVID-19, while at the same time making a determination if it is possible for in-person learning to be safe. Even if in-person learning does occur at the onset of the school year, schools and families should be prepared to return to remote learning in the event that COVID-19 cases spike or spread throughout our community.

What Parents and Families Can Do

In addition to having plans in place to keep our students safe, there are several other factors that parents and families need to prepare for as the school year approaches:

  • ​Up-to-date Immunizations. As your student prepares to return to school, either in person or virtually, it remains crucial that their immunizations are up-to-date and current.  A flu shot will also be critical for students and staff this year to help reduce the spread of influenza. If you have not already done so, please call your child’s physician and schedule an appointment.  All of our providers at Changebridge Medical Associates, a member of Consensus Health, are available and ready to see your child in our office to provide them with the immunizations they need to start the school year off right.
  • Physical Exams. ​ Make sure you have completed or have scheduled your child’s annual physical exam before the school year begins.  A wellness exam may be required for your child’s return to school, sports or an extracurricular activity they participate in during the school year.  Our office is prepared to put your student first and get them an appointment quickly to get them school year ready if needed.
  • Behavioral Health and Emotional Support. If your child is in need of mental health support struggling with stress from the pandemic or has any other mental health needs please speak to the staff at their school or with their physician.  They will be able to help point you in the right direction to get the support your child needs. Your child’s school should anticipate and be prepared to address a wide range of mental health needs of students and staff.  Our office is available to do a comprehensive evaluation, prepared to ask the critical questions and determine the best course of treatment for your concerns if you need a resource you can trust.
  • Nutrition. Since large amounts of students receive healthy meals through their school meal programs, most schools should be prepared to continue to provide their meal programs even if the child opts to attend virtually or is home sick for the day.  Eligibility for free and reduced meals has changed in several areas and more students might be eligible for meals than before the pandemic.  Please contact your local school district for further details and information.
  • High Risk Students. Even with stringent COVID-19 school policies in place to reduce risk, these policies will not eliminate or prevent the spread completely.  Students who have high risk medical conditions need to speak with their child’s doctor and the school staff to assess whether or not that child can safely return to school.  The child may need to start the school year virtually or make other accommodations until it is deemed safe for that student to return.

Returning to school is always a stressful time of year, this year more so than normal.  But following protocols and safety plans from your physician and your school system, we can all join together to do everything we can to help protect the students, families, teachers and staff in this community.  Have a safe and health 2020-2021 school year.

Dr. Frank Iannetta is a founding partner and Board-Certified Family Practice Physician at Changebridge Medical Associates, a member of Consensus Health, in Montville.  Dr. Iannetta has dedicated the last 30 years to the families of Montville and the surrounding communities.

Changebridge Medical Associates, a member of Consensus Health, in Montville, NJ is a primary care and family medicine practice that has been serving the local community for over 30 years.   The expert providers and staff of Changebridge Medical Associates have one priority: To provide the most thorough, compassionate, state-of-the-art medical care to their patients.  They are highly trained in diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases and illnesses that affect your entire family.

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Changebridge Medical Associates, a member of Consensus Health
170 Changebridge Rd BLDG C3
Montville, NJ 07045
(973) 575-5540

The opinions expressed herein are the writer’s alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.