Hybrid learning utilising alternating school days for children offers a significant reduction in community disease spread, finds a new study.
Total closure in favour of remote learning, however, offers little additional advantage over that hybrid option, said the study published in the journal BMC Public Health.
The findings indicate that this research will help decision-makers in the event of another Covid-19 outbreak or one from a similar infectious disease.
"Early in the pandemic when school closures were becoming the norm, many debated the pros and cons of this measure," said researcher Pinar Keskinocak from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US.
"Do we get enough benefit to offset the social costs and impacts on education? This research shows that there is a benefit in infection reduction, especially in the absence of effective pharmaceutical interventions, and most of the benefits can be attained with a hybrid approach," Keskinocak added.
For the study, using an agent-based simulation model of Covid-19 spread, researchers projected the impact of various school reopening strategies: complete closure, alternating school days where one cohort attended in person twice a week and another cohort on the opposite days, younger children only, and regular.
The results showed that compared to schools reopening with regular attendance, the percentage of the population infected reduced by 13, 11, 9, and 6 per cent with each respective strategy.
The conclusions were that some level of closure, younger children only, alternating days, and completely remote, offers a significant reduction in community-wide infections.
The benefit of complete closure over a hybrid approach, however, was minimal, the researchers said.