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New study aims to get immunocompromised students back to school safely

Published: Oct. 24, 2021 at 9:33 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - For the second year, families have had to navigate whether to send their children to school during the pandemic. That decision has been especially tough for families of students with medial conditions like 6-year-old Cade Moureau, from Cottage Grove, who has Prader-Willi syndrome.

“Cade, along with having Prader-Willi syndrome, he has a compromised immune system, and his care providers are pretty adamant like he can’t go into school until he is available for the vaccine,” Cade’s mother Katie Moureau said.

That is why she enrolled him in a new study at UW School of Medicine and Public Health. Cade is one of 100 local children participating in a study aimed at getting K-12 students who have medical complexities back to in-person school safely.

“The children that we’re talking about are oftentimes children who really for their day-to-day care need a lot of hands on, support, wearing a mask might be really difficult and maintaining three feet of distance or six feet of distance might be almost impossible,” Division Chief of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at the University of Wisconsin Dr. Ryan Coller said.

Researchers are working with school districts to develop a system of effective testing.

“Families are doing surveillance testing as well as tests for symptoms or exposures that the child might have or develop,” Dr. Coller said.

The study has three goals:

  • Establishing the feasibility of home and school-based COVID-19 testing strategies;
  • Identifying which factors lead parents of these children to opt for in-person school, and;
  • Establishing recommendations for safe school attendance for these children.

“What we want to learn there is really from the perspective of families. What can schools do or what might be some of the points of focus that will help support families feeling comfortable and having their child in school safely,” Dr. Coller said.

Twice a week, Moureau gives her son Cade a COVID-19 test at home.

“It’s important for us because then I can know that my child is safe and I’m not worried about it, because if he tests positive, I’d have to call his pulmonologist and be like, he tested positive, what do I need you know kind of what do I need to look out for,” Moureau said.

She said for now, she doesn’t feel comfortable sending Cade to in-person school, but she worries that virtual learning is impacting his social and emotional development.

“As any special needs parent, you’re always worried about your kids, building that social emotional piece, and then now you’re throwing in, they’re stuck at home and behind the computer how can they build that relationship and that friendship and continue to expand on their social emotional,” Moureau said.

The study will continue through the winter and is funded by a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

correction: The name of the Division Chief of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at the University of Wisconsin has been corrected to Dr. Ryan Coller.

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