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Global Pandemic, Not a Global Panic

August 13, 2020

We are in mid-August and preparing to return to school. We are also in the midst of a global pandemic, making this return to school unlike any we’ve experienced. There are so many questions, and for most of those questions, the answers change daily. 

  • What is safe? 
  • Are masks necessary? 
  • How often should we insist upon hand-washing and cleaning of classrooms? 
  • How will I know if it is safe to send my child to school? 
  • What should I do if my child is symptomatic? 
  • Why doesn’t the school take my child’s temperature each day?

From March 13, the date schools shuttered for the remainder of the school year, the catchphrase, “We are in this together,” promotes reassurance and trust. As we prepare to re-open the school buildings, that catchphrase has become even more critical. Navigating this new landscape of teaching and learning calls upon  ALL of us at home, at school, and in the community to adapt quickly to new safety protocols and new learning spaces. Following the guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Washtenaw County Health Department, and the Michigan School Code, we can be reasonably assured that the school buildings are ready and staff is prepared to welcome students into the schools. That guidance, however, is limiting. 

Schools cannot randomly or arbitrarily give physical examinations to students. The Michigan School Code, section 380.1504, asserts that schools may not conduct compulsory physical examinations; this includes mandatory temperature checks. The school will continue assessing students that are ill, including taking the child’s temperature.

Families, we need your help. Families must assess each student’s well-being each morning before the child comes to school. Governor Whitmer’s Michigan Safe Schools Roadmap, released on June 30, 2020, recommends that families check each child’s temperature daily at home before school. (p.24)  The presence of a fever higher than 100.4o Fahrenheit or the child is symptomatic (cough, shortness of breath) should prompt the family to keep the child at home and follow up with the family physician.

The recommendations from the CDC echo those found in the Governor’s Roadmap. 

  • CDC does not currently recommend that schools conduct universal symptom screenings (screening all students grades K-12)
  • Parents or caregivers are strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs of infectious illness every day.
  • Students who are sick should not attend school in-person.

Working together with families, a safe return to school is possible.  Community members also help control the spread of the novel virus COVID-19 by wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings, and closely monitoring personal health. We are in this together, and together, we will safely return our children and staff members to school.

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