Restarting Safe Education & Testing (ReSET)
for Children with Medical Complexity
Priorities for a Safe Return to School
for Children with Complex Health Needs
Children with complex health needs have serious medical conditions and often rely on medical devices or people to help them with daily activities.
Safe in-person school attendance can be hard because these children are at higher risk of severe COVID-19, their daily care can include high-risk procedures, and physical distancing and mask adherence can be difficult.
The unique circumstances facing children with complex health needs require extra attention to support safe in-person school attendance.
In Spring 2021, 460 Wisconsin families, school staff, and clinicians sent us over 1,100 ideas on how to help these children attend school during the pandemic.
The top 10 ideas shown below were prioritized by a team of 35 experts representing families, schools, clinicians and policymakers across Wisconsin.
As a central principle, the safety of children with complex health needs requires the safety of all children and staff at school. Families of children with complex health needs should be supported to make the best decision for their child with their health care providers and school staff when considering the risks of COVID-19.
Priorities for a
Safe Return to In-Person School for
Children with Complex Health Needs
Download PDF versions of these priorities here:
Encourage all school staff who work in close proximity with children with complex health needs (e.g., aides, therapists, school nurses) to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear a mask whether vaccinated or not.
Read this email to District Administrators from DPI regarding mask policy considerations for Students with an IEP.
Ensure a respiratory protection plan is in place for school staff performing high-risk care, such as aerosol-generating procedures (e.g. tracheostomy suctioning, nebulized treatments, etc.). For those staff, that would include N95 mask fit testing or availability of Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR).
Assign and maintain individual seats for children with complex health needs during transportation to and from school.
Educate school staff and families about the increased health risks of contracting COVID-19 for children with complex health needs.
Discuss COVID-19 mitigations strategies for children with complex health needs in Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings. Specifically, develop plans that outline the child’s daily routines and contingency plans which account for COVID-19 safety.
Ensure that each child with complex health needs has their own medical equipment or single use disposable equipment at school.
Plan to provide COVID-19 testing for staff and students at school.
Partner with health care providers about ways to keep each child with complex health needs safe at school and circumstances in which a child should stay home.
Have at least one medical staff (such as a school nurse) available to address acute COVID-19 symptoms or questions.
Provide families of children with complex health needs with the opportunity to change between in-person and virtual or homebound school based on illness or COVID-19 spread.
Experts also endorsed important recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics:
Send Us Your Questions and Feedback
We want to hear from you! Please share your experiences supporting children with complex health needs to attend school in-person during the 2021-22 school year by answering the questions below. Your feedback will help us add additional resources in the coming months.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools
COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions: Children with Special Health Care Needs
Parents and Caregivers—What Is Your School Doing to Protect Your Child from COVID-19?
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI)
COVID-19 Special Education Updates and Resources including Q&A document for families
Joint webinar from DHS and DPI with recommendations to schools
A message from Dr. Underly regarding COVID-19 recommendations for 21-22 school year
District Administrator Email: Mask Policy Considerations for Students with an IEP
Moving from in-person to virtual learning (DPI Guidance on IEP revision)
US Department of Education
Return to School Roadmap: Child Find Under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (August 24, 2021)
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
Caring for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs During the COVID-19 Pandemic and specifically for families
Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS)
Wisconsin Family Assistance Center for Education, Training and Support (FACETS)
ReSET was featured on an episode of Safe, Strong & Healthy Schools!
Supporting the Safety of Children with Complex Health Needs in Schools with
Dr. Ryan Coller
Documents Available for Download
This information was developed by families, school staff, clinicians and policymakers across Wisconsin in partnership with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Healthy Kids Collaborative, Wisconsin Departments of Public Instruction and Health Services, Waisman Center UCEDD, and Family Voices of Wisconsin.
This research was, in part, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Agreement No. 1 OT2 HD107558-01(award number OT2 HD107558). The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the NIH