Everyone Has A Role To Play As Ontario Schools Return To In-Person Learning

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NNDSB elementary school students explore rocks and minerals at Mining Matters events.

Statement from the Children’s Health Coalition

As leaders in children’s health, we support the decision to return Ontario children to in-person learning on January 17. We know the best place for kids is in the classroom and we all have a role to play to manage risk while maintaining focus on their mental, physical and developmental wellbeing.

We want to extend our sincere gratitude to teachers, ECEs and other education and childcare workers. These are extremely challenging and disruptive times and we are grateful for your commitment to kids.

We know that this has been an incredibly stressful time for everyone, especially for families of medically fragile or immunocompromised children. And it may remain so—no situation in a pandemic is without risk and the stress it causes. The distribution of masks and filters, as well as recent prioritization of education workers for vaccinations as recommended by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, will help to reduce risks in schools.

We urge the government to continue to make PCR testing in schools and childcare settings available for all symptomatic staff and children and ensure rapid antigen testing is also made widely available in those venues. Implementation of tailored vaccination strategies for kids five to 11 in communities that face barriers to vaccination are urgently needed and will also contribute to school safety. Only 47% of Ontario’s 5- to 11-year-olds are vaccinated thus far—compared to 70% in Newfoundland and Labrador. We also need solutions to document cases in schools so parents can make informed decisions.

It’s everyone’s job to make schools as safe as they can be—not just education workers, parents and kids. We ask that everyone follow broader public health measures like vaccination, masking and reducing contacts so that we can prioritize kids’ wellbeing by remaining in school.

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