Will Brampton and Mississauga students soon be headed back to the classroom?
Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce hinted as much Saturday night in a message sent out on Twitter.
“I believe strongly that it’s essential that all students return to the class,” Lecce wrote in his tweet, adding that he has had positive talks with Ontario’s Medical Officers of Health who have called on the Provincial government to begin opening all classrooms.
But such a move would be premature, says Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam who also on Saturday warned provinces against easing stringent public health measures.
“It is crucial that strong measures are kept in place in order to maintain a steady downward trend,” Tam said in a release. “With still elevated daily case counts and high rates of infection across all age groups, the risk remains that trends could reverse quickly and some areas of the country are seeing increased activity.”
Students in Peel Region haven’t been in classrooms since before the Christmas break as the Ontario government took steps to minimize the spread of COVID-19. While students in other areas of the province have been slowly returning to in-class education, those in Brampton, Mississauga and other areas of the GTA continue to learn virtually.
Originally students were supposed to return as regularly scheduled when the winter break ended. However, that was delayed until January 25 as the pandemic continued to grow. It has since been pushed to February 10.
The Ontario government now seems prepared to stick to the February timeline after listening to the Ontario medical experts.
“Upon careful review and consideration of local indicators, we believe it is possible, and in fact, imperative, that schools begin to open before the reopening of other sectors, as the stay-at-home orders are lifted provincially,” Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Chair of the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health wrote in a letter to Premier Doug Ford. “Safe reopening of all schools in Ontario is essential.”
The letter, dated Friday, cited guidance from Toronto’s SickKids hospital that flagged “harms of prolonged school closures” and recommended daily in-person classrooms be “the last to close and the first to open.”
It also noted a recent paper from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention that showed transmission risk within schools was low, with mask requirements and student cohorting in place.
with files from The Canadian Press