(WPRI) — The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced Monday their recommendation that all children over the age of 2 wear masks when returning to school this fall.

The AAP says it’s important for schools to return to in-person learning, but also that students, teachers, and staff should be masked at school, regardless of vaccination status.

“We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers — and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely,” said Sonja O’Leary, chair of the AAP Council on School Health. “Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone.”

The doctors’ group says since many children and others cannot be vaccinated, universal masking is the most effective in safeguarding children from COVID-19.

The AAP adds many schools will not have a system to monitor the vaccine status of students, teachers, and staff, and some communities overall have low vaccination uptake where the virus may be circulating more prominently.

Locally in Rhode Island, Gov. Dan McKee announced last month that all schools will return to in-person learning in the fall and that fully vaccinated students and staff would not be required to wear masks.

In a statement to 12 News, a spokesperson for McKee said their latest recommendation is in line with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“While some organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, may be advocating for broader masking policies, masks are only one tool that will help minimize the spread of COVID-19 in school communities,” the spokesperson said. “Vaccinations, masking, optimal ventilation and good hand hygiene will all play a role in keeping the members of school communities healthy and safe this fall.”

The state has urged each district to establish policies requiring all unvaccinated individuals to wear a mask while indoors.