Cautious Premier Ford sticking to June 14 timeline
May 29 2021
Ontario's top public health official says that he believes that schools can be reopened safely and has received feedback from all Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area public health units indicating that they are "prepared" to have children return to the classroom as soon as next week.
On the other hand, Ford mentioned how cancelled classes present mental health, academic, and other challenges for students, amplified for children who come from poor families or who experience racism. In it, they expressed their support for the reopening of schools.
NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles says Ford's letter seeking input comes "troublingly late".
But Ford said he doesn't want to rely exclusively on the advice of the province's top public health official, Dr. David Williams, who believes students should return to the classroom.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, wrote a letter to Premier Doug Ford Friday stating that she would prefer the return of in-person learning before other COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Ford goes on to cite a recent study out of the United Kingdom that showed a single dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca is only 33% effective against the B.1.617 variant first identified in India.
De Villa acknowledges the decision whether or not to reopen schools for in-person learning is a hard one, and she says TPH will be ready to support the direction the province chooses to take regarding the matter.
Skube asked Dr. Etches if she would like to see schools open next week, if possible.
"In recent weeks, there has been a wide range of advice and commentary around the reopening of schools in Ontario".
"We need now to ensure there is broad consensus from our medical, public health, and education experts that returning to school is the right thing to do", Ford's letter said.
De Villa also says studies have shown transmission risk appears to be low where there are comprehensive COVID-19 measures in place.
Ford is asking for input on the safety of in-person learning, the risk posed by virus variants and whether an anticipated bump in COVID-19 cases is acceptable.
Dr. Lawrence Loh, medical officer of health for hard-hit Peel Region, said discussions were ongoing but the COVID-19 situation was looking up.
Is the reopening of schools for in-person learning safe for teachers and all education staff?
The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has said that reopening schools for the month of June would likely result in a spike in cases of six to 11 per cent, which it said could be "manageable".
Following the announcement of the plan Ontarians, including health experts, took to social media to share their thoughts on this proposed "second dose summer".
"Based on what we know about upcoming shipments, everyone in Ontario, who wants a vaccine, can be fully vaccinated by the end of August".
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.
On Friday, The Ontario Public School Boards Association (OPSBA) also issued a letter of their own, saying schools should be the last to close and the first to open.