Children with complex health issues 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.

 

These unique circumstances facing children with complex health issues require extra attention to support safe in-person school attendance.

 

In Spring 2021, experts representing Wisconsin families, school staff, clinicians, and policymakers, prioritized ten considerations for safe school attendance. As a central principle, families should be supported to make the best decision for their child about in-person school attendance 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 ISSUES

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PLAN

  • Ensure a COVID-19 protection plan is in place for school staff that includes N95 mask fit testing or availability of Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) for those performing high-risk care, such as aerosol-generating procedures.

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COMMUNICATE

  • Educate school staff and families about the increased health risks of contracting COVID-19 for children with complex health issues.

  • Discuss COVID-19 mitigations strategies for children with complex health issues 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.
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PROTECT

  • Ensure each child with complex health issues has their own medical equipment or single use disposable equipment at school.​

  • Assign and maintain individual seats for children with complex health issues during transportation to and from school.

  • Encourage school staff who work in close proximity with children with complex health issues (e.g., aides, therapists, school nurses) to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and/or adhere to proper masking.  This WI expert group encouraged school staff working closely with these children, whether vaccinated or not, to wear masks given the unique health risks.

  • Provide COVID-19 testing for staff and students at school.

  • ​​​Have at least one medical staff (such as a school nurse) available to address acute COVID-19 symptoms or questions.

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PARTNER

  • Partner with health care providers about ways to keep each child with complex health issues safe at school and circumstances in which a child should stay home.

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ADAPT

  • Provide families of children with complex health issues with the opportunity to change between in-person and virtual school based on illness or COVID-19 spread.

CDC COVID-19 MITIGATION STRATEGIES

When considering children with complex health issues, Wisconsin experts also identified several COVID-19 mitigation strategies outlined by the Centers for Disease Control :​

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  • Promoting vaccination for all eligible students, families and school staff

  • Encouraging consistent and correct mask use, particularly when indoors

  • Facilitating/practicing cleaning and disinfecting practices, physical distancing, adequate ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette

  • Participating in screening, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine as indicated

  • Staying home when sick and getting tested