A new school year starts for many Hoosier students in the next two weeks, as COVID-19 cases are on the rise. With schools updating their safety plans and many children not eligible for a vaccine, one expert is recommending parents take extra precautions.
Some schools are ditching mask requirements or making them optional, while others recommend them for unvaccinated kids. But many children can't get a vaccine, and some may have a medical condition putting them at greater risk.
Brenda McLean is a school and career counselor with the Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center. She said it's vital for parents to create a health plan with their child's school, particularly if their child has an underlying health condition.
"Develop a health plan so that everyone's on the same page, everyone knows what this is, here it is in writing," McLean said.
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McLean said it's important to write the plan down so any new staff can quickly get on board with necessary accommodations or restrictions as well, and to keep schools accountable for what students need to stay safe and healthy as they return to classrooms.
She said parents should check in with their child's doctor to learn more about what that should look like for their individual child – including preparation for situations that could come up throughout the school day.
"That plan ought to include what the doctor's recommendations, restrictions and so forth are, but also what are the 'could be's," she said.
Some parents of children with underlying health conditions have chosen online schools or programs during the pandemic, but McLean said some of the families she works with want to send their children back to school buildings for the benefits of in-person school.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 4 children have some chronic condition, like asthma or diabetes.
Children 12 and older are eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.