Premier seeks expert consensus before deciding on school reopening

Elias Hubbard
May 28, 2021

The premier of Ontario wants feedback on whether to open up our schools next month or not. Should indoor school instruction resume before then?

Ontario's COVD-19 case number rose for the second day in a row Thursday, with 1,135 new cases reported along with another 19 deaths.

The Liberal leader said Ford should consult all organizations in the education system, including those that represent teachers, principals, early childhood educators, school support staff, bus drivers, school boards and trustees, to make plans for the reopening of schools for in-person learning in September.

The president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario called for more health and safety supports.

Dr. Lawrence Loh, the medical officer of health for Peel Region, said key COVID-19 indicators support the resumption of in-person learning.

"This is astonishing to me that we're hearing public musings from the chief medical officer of health about reopening schools when there has been no proposed plan (and) there has been absolutely no transparency around the metrics upon which they're basing this", Bischof said in an interview.

"Our government understands the benefits of having children learning in class".

The province's top doctor said Tuesday that he'd like to see schools reopen as early as next week in some regions.

"ETFO firmly believes that in-person instruction is the best experience for students, but it must be done safely, without risk to the health and well-being of students and education workers", Sam Hammond said.

Speaking with reporters, Williams said that "it would be great" if students could return to the classroom for three or four weeks prior to the summer break but he acknowledged that it is a "group effort" and will also have to have the full backing of local medical officers of health and education sector leaders.

Dr. Williams is in favour of opening the schools, but we have a few doctors on the science table that aren't in favour. Keeping our students and school staff, and their families, safe in a global pandemic must include global considerations, especially the impact of new, more unsafe variants that have now entered our communities through Canada's borders.

The modelling from the Ontario Science Table has suggested that reopening schools will lead to an increase in cases in the province of Ontario, is this acceptable and safe? "At the same time we know other jurisdictions are seeing a rapid increase in new, more risky variants that are more contagious, make people and children in particular sicker, are potentially more deadly and are more resistant to vaccines". This suggests a single shot offers 35 per cent less protection against B.1.617.2 compared with B.1.1.7, according to Financial Times analysis.

Both De Villa and Loh ordered schools to close in April due to soaring cases, days ahead of a provincewide decision to move classes online. He also says current data shows only 41 per cent of Ontario teachers have been vaccinated.

Vaccines remain our best defence against COVID-19. As of May 23, 2021, Ontarians aged 12 and up are now eligible to book a vaccine through the provincial booking system.

As Premier, my priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has always been to protect the health and safety of Ontarians.

She said Toronto Public Health will wait for the province to make its decision, but added the circumstances have to be right and safe for children, staff and teachers.

Ultimately, this is our government's decision, but in light of the foregoing, and the diversity of perspectives on the safety of reopening schools, I am asking for your views on a number of issues.

He wants responses by 5 p.m. on May 28.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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