Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has said that schools across the province can safely reopen on a regional basis without driving up virus cases.
“Schools can re-open safely on a regional basis, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the local Medical Officers of Health, School Districts, and health system partners,” the table wrote.
“Schools that re-open should maintain their public health measures vigorously and build on the strategies they have already deployed to limit spread.”
The table reiterated that its modelling suggests that the increase in virus cases that would result from reopening schools is small, and can be handled by most health units.
Comprised of scientific experts and health system leaders, the table stressed that schools should not be grouped together with other sectors when reopening plans are made.
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Classrooms across Ontario have been closed to in-person learning since mid-April.
The science table acknowledged that closing schools while cases surged was “a necessary step” to control the pandemic.
However, school closures create harm, they wrote. Surveys have shown a “substantial deterioration” in the mental health of children and youth throughout the pandemic.
The table believes there will be long-lasting challenges to kids’ mental health that will outlast the pandemic.
By reopening classrooms for one month of in-person learning, the province would help to mitigate the “significant short and long-term harms” that will arise from school closures.
“Schools should be the last sector to close and the first sector to reopen,” the table wrote. “School is the essential work of Ontario’s children.”
To date, Ontario has seen 529,510 COVID-19 cases and 8,726 deaths.