Health Unit Offers Return To School Guidance

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A message from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit:

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is working with local schools and school boards to support back to school planning, and has information and resources to help guide parents in returning their children to school.

“The safe return to school is at the forefront of everyone’s minds right now and we know that it has been difficult to make decisions about whether to send your child or children to school or have them do on-line learning,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU’s medical officer of health. “Everyone’s situation is different, and the decision to send your children to school in person needs to be one that works for you and your family.”

Returning to school is very important for children and youth. It’s good for their education and well-being, and for the whole family. However, as more spaces open for people to gather (like schools), there will be the potential for more cases of COVID-19. Unfortunately in living with this risk we cannot prevent all cases, but we can take action to help prevent outbreaks and to reduce the numbers of cases.

The health unit is working closely with school boards to prevent COVID-19 transmission as much as possible, to identify and manage cases of COVID-19 and to prevent its further spread in schools. Keeping community transmission low is key to keeping schools safer, and COVID-19 rates locally are very low currently, making attending school in Simcoe Muskoka a safe choice for most children and families at this time. In addition, schools will have many measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 being introduced into the school setting, and to lessen the risk of spread if COVID-19 is introduced, such as:

  • requiring you to screen your child for symptoms each day
  • prompt isolation of sick children and staff
  • physical distancing to the extent possible
  • enhanced cleaning measures
  • cohorting (keeping groups together) to the extent possible
  • use of face coverings is required for students in Grades 4 to 12 , and encouraged for students in Kindergarten to Grade 3

“There is no risk-free option with COVID-19 and it would be unrealistic to think that we can get through the next few months without some risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the school classroom,” said Dr. Gardner. “The job of parents is to decide which of the options is best for their child and family at this time and the job of the health unit is to continue to keep transmission in the community low to help stop COVID-19 from entering schools in the first place.”

SMDHU will continue to work with its school board partners, parents, and the community on the safe return to school and will continue to support schools throughout the year. For more information, including return to learning guidance and resources, visit the health unit’s website at Parents can also call Health Connection to speak with a public health professional weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520 (1-877-721-7520).


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