TORONTO, ON – With the release of a report from Sick Kids and the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, ETFO urges the government to take a cautious approach to the reopening of schools and implement necessary safety measures to prevent possible outbreaks in the fall. With the Delta variant becoming the dominant variant in Ontario, and students under 12 not able to be vaccinated, measures need to be taken to avoid schools becoming sources of transmission in the coming months.
“This Sick Kids report was released on the same day as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that everyone wear masks in schools,” said Hammond. “Schools have been shown to be sources of transmission, and ETFO is very concerned that pediatricians and other experts are not advocating for student masking at all levels, when evidence shows that relaxing masking rules has resulted in school outbreaks in other jurisdictions.”
Overall, focus on testing and tracing was a strategy that ETFO suggested in the spring of 2020, but it is unclear whether the report’s criteria for determining low risk will ensure that safety protocols are relaxed slowly enough to ensure that there is not a return to constantly pivoting to online learning due to self-isolation requirements and lockdowns.
“It is late July, and we still don’t have a return-to-school plan from this government. There is no time to lose. It’s time for the Ford government to do what is needed to ensure every school has the resources and the support to implement the necessary precautions against the transmission of COVID-19,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “Children and families need the government to prioritize the safety needs of students so that every school is a safe school.”
“While this report focuses on making ongoing safety evaluations based on continuous testing and contact tracing, it also states that safety measures such as smaller cohorts are best achieved where class sizes are smaller. Overall risks would be reduced across the public school system if the government would implement key measures that include access to paid sick days, improving ventilation and reducing class sizes,” said Hammond.
“With the more transmissible Delta variant set to become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Ontario, and children under 12 unable to access vaccinations, the province must implement the necessary precautions to protect students.”
ETFO represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province. Its Building Better Schools education agenda can be viewed at BuildingBetterSchools.ca.