For hundreds of thousands of Ontario school students, Monday’s a big day. Schools province-wide are re-opening, and that brings with it certain concerns about health and safety with the Omicron variant still spreading. Perhaps the public could use some reassurance? A letter from Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer offers some of that, but it also reminds the community that protecting schools is a group effort.
“In-person learning is important, not just for our children, but for their families and the broader community. When children cannot attend school, there are serious and long-lasting impacts on their mental health, wellbeing and academic progress,” said Mercer in the letter.
Mercer warned that the virulence of the Omicron variant means that it’s still likely going to be weeks before the COVID picture improves, and she re-iterated that the best way to keep people, including school students, safe is for everyone to get vaccinated and boosted. She also asked that everyone continue to observe public health measures, and to base their health decisions on information from “trusted sources”.
“Many families in our community rely on in-person learning to support their economic and social wellbeing. Many children depend on in-person learning for reasons of food security, safety and many other benefits beyond what is contained in their lessons. For this reason, I believe that the benefits of reopening in-person learning ultimately outweigh the short-term risks,” Mercer added.
“I know we can meet this moment as a community. We must continue to support one another and continue the fight against this pandemic. We must do all we can to safeguard the education of our children, the health of our region and our future together.”
Leaders from public health, the local schools boards, and representatives from all levels of government also teamed up for a news release from the Guelph Chamber of Commerce to further promote faith that everyone is ready to go back to school on Monday.
“The health and safety of our students, staff, families and community is our top priority as we navigate through the pandemic,” said UGDSB Director of Education Peter Sovran. “Schools have multiple layers of protective measures in place including masking, distancing, enhanced ventilation, and access to vaccinations for staff and eligible students.”
“The continuity of learning and mental health benefits that come from kids being in a safe school environment are significant and ensuring a safe return for our students has been our number one priority,” added Michael Glazier, Director of Education for the Wellington Catholic District School Board.
During the discussion, both school boards apparently offered assurances that they’ve made preparations to help get kids back to school safely with measures like ventilation, N95 mask provisions, an improved screening tool and prioritization for vaccinations of eligible staff and students, and other measures it what’s being called a”multi-layered system of infection control.”
“I applaud the dedication and commitment within our community to the health and well-being of our children”, said Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield.
“Working together to get kids back to school is critical to supporting our healthcare and other public services; reducing stress on parents, students and teaching staff; and helping business get up and running”, said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner.
“I’m so encouraged by the dedication of each of these community leaders coming together with a Team Guelph approach. We all wanted to do whatever necessary to support our school boards, teachers and staff, alongside parents and students, as they head back to in-class learning this Monday” added Mayor Cam Guthrie.
In the meantime, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has opened up all their vaccine clinics for drop-in appointments no matter what age group you’re in, and no matter whether you’re getting a first, second or third shot. To see hours and clinic locations, click here.