As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many children have returned to school in person this year for the first time in 18 months. The instruction may be the same, but the classrooms look and feel very different with safety measures in place to help prevent the spread of the virus. These precautions range from face masks to keeping children with runny noses and coughs home after school.
Experts from the Rales Center for the Integration of Health and Education at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the Johns Hopkins Consortium for School-Based Health Solutions and the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs received a grant of $ 1.47 million over one year National Health Institutes Engage in Parents and Communities as Experts Study, known as PACE, to Understand Family Perceptions of Public Health Recommendations for COVID-19 in Schools . The project, which is part of the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations, or RADx-UP, Return to School Initiative to Increase Access and Use of COVID-19 Tests for Vulnerable and Underserved Populations, also involves researchers at Morgan State University and the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“Parents are really in a tough spot right now,” says study lead investigator Sara Johnson, director of the Rales Center and associate professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Most are eager to see their children return to school to support their academic and social development, but COVID-19 is still a risk.”
“Parents are really in a difficult situation right now. Most are anxious to see their children go back to school to support their academic and social development, but COVID-19 is still a risk.”
JHU School of Medicine
The study will use community conversations, surveys and focus groups to characterize the social, ethical and behavioral factors associated with the willingness of parents of K-8 students to send their children back to school in person. , keep them in school, and support and comply with public health measures for the prevention and control of COVID-19.
“We recognize how critical it is to engage with and learn from families as we face the challenges of a safe return to school,” says Megan Collins, Co-Director of Johns Hopkins Consortium for School-Based Health Solutions and Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute. “One of our goals is to find out how families have adjusted to the changes in school brought on by COVID-19.”
The study focuses on Maryland’s eight school systems, including Baltimore City Public Schools, which have the highest proportion of underserved residents as defined by the NIH. The researchers created local community advisory councils of parents, caregivers, teachers, administrators, school health staff, and English and Spanish speaking students in these areas.
“COVID-19 policies, particularly back-to-school guidelines and mitigation efforts like immunizations and testing, vary across school systems,” Johnson said. “We’ll be able to assess these differences and understand which strategies help parents feel more comfortable returning to school in person, and why some approaches are more effective than others. “
Once the data is compiled, researchers, with input from communities, will design and implement a locally tailored public health messaging campaign to remove barriers to participation in infection control and prevention measures. Results, both locally and statewide, along with recommendations and community resources, will also be provided to school systems.
“We plan to suggest policies and strategies to dispel misconceptions, ensure families are able to adapt to the policies, and suggest strategies to build support for parents and stakeholders who help babysit children. at school in person, ”Johnson said.
More details can be found on the PACE study website.