Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward has added her name to the growing list of politicians and public figures calling for Ontario’s students to return to the classroom.
On Saturday (May 29), after Premier Doug Ford urged experts to provide their input on whether students should return to the classroom, the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table (OCSAT) published a letter to Ford which said they believe students should return to in-person learning, and the risk in doing so is low.
“Science Table modelling suggests that the total increase in cases that would result from re-opening schools is small. Most public health units believe that they can mitigate and manage those increases in their communities,” reads the statement from the OCSAT.
“Schools can re-open safely on a regional basis, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the local Medical Officers of Health, School Districts and health system partners. Schools that re-open should maintain their public health measures vigorously and build on the strategies they have already deployed to limit the spread,” the statement continues.
In her own statement published on Monday (May 31), Meed Ward echoed these sentiments: “I stand with medical professionals across the province in calling for the safe reopening of schools, including members of the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, Medical Officers of Health and other medical professionals, school boards, parents and students in my community.”
However, not everyone from the OCSAT is in agreement.
David Fisman, a doctor, member of the OCSAT, and professor of Epidemiology at the University of Toronto, expressed a different opinion.
“I disagree with much of this morning’s guidance from the [OCSAT] We have an end to the pandemic in our reach in Ontario. We may get away with this gamble, or we may not. In my view, gambling on increasing ICU admissions and accelerated b1617 strain replacement: not worth it,” Fisman said in a social media post published on Saturday.
Fisman believes the risk of exacerbating the spread of the virus far outweighs any positives that can be made for reopening schools for just three to four weeks.
However, those in favour of sending children back to school have cited the declining mental health among children who have been out of school for a significant portion of the last two years, including Meed Ward.
“Our local Medical Officer of Health at Halton Region, and our school board support the approach outlined in the letter. I add my voice to those calling on the Premier to re-open schools safely on a regional basis to mitigate the significant short and long-term harms arising from school closures, while managing the risk of virus transmission in this sector,” she said.
In a statement released on Monday, Ford said his government is still reviewing the responses from experts regarding whether or not they will reopen schools for in-person learning, and they intend to make a decision sometime this week.