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Reading, 'rithmetic and resisting COVID: The new 3 R’s as kids head back to school

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When kids head back to school this fall, for some it will be the first time they've been in a real classroom with other students since the pandemic began. Even if they attended classes in person last year, the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant of covid-19 will require a new safety calculation, particularly for parents of kids younger than 12, who can't yet get a vaccine.

"You have a confluence of three unfortunate events," said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "You have a group of children who are unlikely to have a vaccine available to them when they go back to school; you have the delta variant, which is far more contagious; and you have the winter months, with a cold, dry climate where the virus can spread more easily."

Nearly all schools offered at least some in-person learning by the end of the last school year, and many schools plan to bring kids back full time this fall. And in more than a dozen states, schools are required to offer in-person classes either full or part time, according to an analysis in June by EducationWeek.

Parents have questions about how to navigate this new landscape. Here are answers to some common concerns.

Q: What should parents do if their child gets what seems like a bad cold, but they're worried it could be covid?

It's likely your school has protocols in place for handling these situations. But in general, if a child is sick, especially with symptoms of an upper respiratory infection like coughing or fever, keep them home until symptoms subside, doctors said. You should be doing that anyway.

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