Ford pens letter seeking input on school reopening

Experts: Reopening schools to in-person learning should start as soon as possible, depend on regional approach

Experts: Reopening schools to in-person learning should start as soon as possible, depend on regional approach

The impact of COVID-19 variants and relatively low rates of vaccinated teachers and students raises serious concerns about reopening schools, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Thursday, as he sought last-minute advice on whether to resume in-person learning for the final month of the academic year.

"In recent weeks, there has been a wide range of advice and commentary around the reopening of schools in Ontario".

The Toronto District School Board said it hadn't heard from the government about resuming in-person learning as of Wednesday, but schools would be prepared to reopen.

Skube asked Dr. Etches if she would like to see schools open next week, if possible.

"This is concerning", Ford says.

Ford is seeking a response from 55 recipients, which include children's hospitals, health organizations and various medical experts, by 5 p.m. tomorrow, May 28.

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.

"What makes all this new information concerning is that ... only 41 per cent of teachers and education workers are vaccinated compared to 62 per cent of the general adult population in Ontario", Ford wrote.

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According to the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, opening schools could bring an increase of cases from anywhere between six to 11 per cent.

"Medical officers of health say the time is right to open them", Crombie, said on social media.

When asked last week about the possibility of reopening schools, Doug Ford said he would consult with his science experts, but feared that an increase in cases would be too much for the province to handle. "At the same time, our top priority is to ensure any decision we make on school reopening is based on sound scientific advice, consensus and considers potential or future risks". "Keeping children safe is our foremost consideration, which is why as experts in health, public health and education we are seeking your perspective".

"I know those public health units will work closely with the respective school boards that they have in their local regions to make the kind of local decisions that will serve the interests of the school system and that will serve the interests, most importantly, of our kids and their parents". Keeping our students and school staff, and their families, safe in a global pandemic must include global considerations, especially the impact of new, more risky variants that have now entered our communities through Canada's borders.

The reopening of schools in Ontario has been a highly contentious issue over the course of the pandemic, and especially recently as the province approaches the first major step in its gradual reopening plan. "At the same time we know other jurisdictions are seeing a rapid increase in new, more unsafe variants that are more contagious, make people and children in particular sicker, are potentially more deadly and are more resistant to vaccines".

Meanwhile, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, and Dr. Lawrence Loh, de Villa's counterpart in Peel Region, said they are still waiting to see if COVID-19 case counts drop further in their jurisdictions. We are getting doses into arms as quickly as possible, but due to lack of sufficient supply, children may not be vaccinated before a return to school in June.

The letter poses seven COVID-19 safety-related questions for doctors, scientists, public health authorities and teacher unions.

"The feedback I have had as of today is that all the ones around the GTHA say they have conducted case and contact management and they're prepared to have their schools open", he said.

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