As we inch closer to the school year, parents and educators (and students as well) are wondering what in-class learning will look like when the kids start going back the day after Labour Day. As Guelph and area’s separate school board works out the details, the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Medical Officer of Health is offering her two cents and endorsing the call to have students mask up.
In an open letter shared on the Public Health website, Dr. Nicola Mercer said that she has met with local school boards to discuss ways to ensure that schools will re-open as safely as possible. Mercer said that she is “encouraged” by the commitment of the boards to be “creative and flexible” while protecting students and staff in area schools, and is pleased that options like screening, masking and hand hygiene are all part of the plan.
“I was pleased to see Upper Grand District School Board take the step of mandating masks for all students and staff at their meeting yesterday,” Mercer said referring to the school board meeting this past Tuesday when they passed a mask mandate for all staff and students at Upper Grand schools.
“Supporting schools throughout our region will be the largest single program undertaken by Public Health this fall,” Mercer added. “We are adding nursing positions thanks to newly announced funding from the Provincial Government. Those new staff will join current public health professionals to create a team that will directly support each individual school in our region.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, the Upper Grand District School Board passed several motions to enhances safety for area school students beyond the guidelines from the Government of Ontario. Masks will be required for all students from junior kindergarten onward unless they have a medical exemption. They also passed a motion mandating masks on all school buses as well.
Mercer added in her letter that the success or failure of the back to school efforts of public health and the school board will depend on the success or failure of the greater community to keep COVID rates low.
“Low infections rates will mean less chance of infections in our schools and more resources to manage outbreaks of the virus. Each of us has the responsibility to practice good hand hygiene, maintain physical distancing, wear a face covering, download the COVID-19 tracking app, and avoid large gatherings where possible,” Mercer said. “Plans to safely reopen our schools can only be as effective as our commitment to tackling COVID-19 together.”