Schools should be reopened for face-to-face learning, even if it’s just a few weeks, the London area medical health officer says.
On Thursday, amid increasing speculation about the reopening of schools, Premier Doug Ford wrote a letter to 55 stakeholders, including medical experts, health units, children’s hospitals and teacher unions, urging them to consider how Ontario could advance school reopening before the end of the school year.
“Ultimately, this is our government’s decision, but given the foregoing and the different perspectives on the safety of school reopenings, I would like your views on a number of issues,” Ford said in the letter.
There is strong local support for the reopening from the top health officer at Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU).
“Reopening schools would have tremendous health benefits,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, the area’s medical health officer.
“You are really having a mental health crisis in schools for children and families right now, so I understand the Prime Minister has a lot of things to consider. It must be a very difficult decision, but certainly as a medical officer. From a health standpoint, I support emphatically the early reopening of schools. “
Even two weeks of face-to-face learning would make a difference for students and families, Mackie said, adding that he and other medical health officials reaffirmed their strong consensus on reopening schools during a conversation with Ontario’s chief health officer.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Holder said whatever the province decides, what Londoners want most is certainty and clarity about what to expect.
“If we reopen, so be it, but let us know. If we close by September, so be it, but let us know … but what matters most, be it June or September, is That the health of our students must be paramount, “said Holder and urged children aged 12 and over to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.
School authorities ready, teachers union wants to keep course
The Thames Valley District School Board and London District Catholic School Board say they are ready to reopen if the province gives the order. Local transport services said bus drivers are ready to go even at short notice. (Sofia Rodriguez / CBC)
London’s two largest school boards, the London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB) and the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB), said they were ready to reopen as soon as they get the go-ahead from the province.
“We would definitely welcome the students back because we know how difficult it is,” said Linda Staudt, the education director of the LDCSB, on Wednesday. “We have experience with panning and this would be a nice twist back to full, personally, so we’ve done it before and we know we can do it again.”
Staudt reiterated his concern for the children’s spiritual well-being if they continued to study from afar.
“What these students are missing most at the moment is being together and this whole socio-emotional piece is a really important consideration for us … There is no doubt that it was difficult for students and their parents to be at home all day to be without this classroom atmosphere. “
Mark Fisher, the TVDSB’s director of education, said he was confident the schools could reopen soon after the province and local health officials made it safe.
But Craig Smith, the president of the local Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), which represents more than 3,600 teachers, said while many teachers long to get back to the classroom, there are growing safety concerns, especially without it structural improvements such as improved ventilation and filtration systems in schools.
“I’m not sure there is any point in this at this point [reopening] is safe as we can stay where we are, keep doing what we do, and really focus on making sure we start the next school year strong and that we have no repetition this year. ” he said.
Smith said the uncertainty surrounding the reopening over the past few weeks has been a major concern for students, teachers and parents.
“What we are hearing is that teachers want to be back … But I think there is some level of concern for several reasons. One is concern about general safety, but it also shows where we are in the school year “, he said.
“What we are doing in schools at this point, face to face or remotely, essentially translates into culminating assignments … However, if the idea is that they think the next three weeks will catch everyone I think , this is a dream. [but] We will do our job to the best of our ability. “
The Prime Minister urged all 55 recipients of the letter to send their responses to seven questions about security concerns for the reopening by 5 p.m. on Friday