Thursday, July 16, 2020

APA, AACAP Outline Plan for School Reopening That Emphasizes Safety, Optimizes Mental Health

APA and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) on Wednesday issued recommendations for schools and communities as they move to safely reopen schools in the COVID-19 era. APA members may want to share these recommendations with their local school boards or other government entities.

“In these uncertain times, making educational decisions based on science and community circumstances ensures the mental health needs of our children and adolescents are being addressed, allowing them to feel engaged, safe, secure, supported, and loved,” APA and AACAP stated in a news release.

The organizations urged schools and communities to keep the following precautions in mind when considering reopening:

  • Public health agencies should base their recommendations on returning students, teachers, and staff to classrooms on scientific evidence and local community circumstances, not politics. APA and AACAP noted that one solution may not be appropriate for all school systems.
  • The return to school must include appropriate protections for all children, families, school personnel, and other members of the community.
  • When in-person classroom education is not possible, schools should prioritize techniques that optimize social interactions among students alongside educational objectives.
  • The education of children with special needs requires additional resources to adapt instructional techniques. This population includes children with emotional, learning, and physical disabilities as well as those who are in foster care, who live in poverty, and for whom English is a second language, among others.
  • The mental health of students, educators, school staff, and parents teaching at home must be continually addressed because mental health is an intrinsic part of overall health and well-being.
  • Schools should provide students who have experienced systemic or cultural disadvantages in education and mental health support with sufficient access to equipment, services, and technology.
  • Schools and communities should receive additional financial support to address the structural requirements necessary to create safe environments that ensure a full array of education and mental health supports.
  • Systems to identify and provide interventions for the increased number of high-risk students as a result of the pandemic should be in place.

APA and AACAP “recognize that education, including school attendance, is an essential component of successful and healthy development for all children and adolescents,” the news release stated. “Access to universal, high-quality education is always the goal, but is especially true in the COVID-19 era, when many have had their education compromised and may be experiencing higher levels of stress from social isolation.”

(Image: iStock/DGLimages)

Have You Thought About Running for APA Office? Help Steer APA’s Future
Nominate yourself or a colleague

As chair of APA’s Nominating Committee, Immediate Past President Bruce Schwartz, M.D., is seeking to diversify the elected leadership of APA and invites all members to consider running for one of the open Board of Trustee offices in APA’s 2021 election: president-elect; secretary; early-career psychiatrist trustee-at-large; minority/underrepresented representative trustee; Area 1, 4, and 7 trustees; and resident-fellow member trustee-elect. You may nominate yourself or a colleague—the important point is that you get involved! The deadline is Tuesday, September 1.

Access Nomination Requirements and Form

(Image: iStock/IIIerlok_Xolms)