We are deeply concerned with the Ministry of Education’s return to learning announcement, as students across the province don’t feel safe returning to school.
The government’s plan for a return to in-person learning is incomplete and needs serious revision to ensure the student perspective is at the forefront of any decisions made. A learning environment where students feel unsafe and unprotected from this virus is not conducive to student success.
It’s dangerous to ignore the rising number of COVID-19 cases, as Ontario has recently hit a record-breaking 18,000 cases. The Omicron variant is far more transmissible than past variants, therefore the government must acknowledge that a concerning amount of students will be at-risk within their school environments.
The large number of cases will put immense strain on the education and healthcare systems. The current plan of a two-day delay in the return to school is not enough time for additional safety measures such as HEPA filters and N95 masks to be distributed.
The Ministry-provided cloth masks that have been distributed to students are insufficient in preventing the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Families across Ontario will face financial barriers in purchasing more protective medical masks.
We recommend that the government delay the return to school to provide all students in Ontario with adequate PPE, such as medical masks and N95 masks.
Many Canadian provinces, including Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and British Columbia, have already decided to delay their return to school date.
To keep students’ mental and physical health a priority during these difficult times, the Ministry of Education must delay the return to in-person learning.
Moreover, the decision to halt the reporting of COVID-19 cases is a step backwards in ensuring students have a safe learning environment.
We are firmly against the government’s decision to suspend the reporting of COVID-19 cases in schools and child-care settings. We highly recommend that the provincial government continue to monitor and track COVID-19 cases in schools, and notify close contacts of possible exposure.