Safe return to school in Ontario

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Dear Minister Lecce,

We support the effort to resume full-time in-person instruction in elementary schools, starting in September. However, we are extremely concerned that the school reopening plan put forth by your government, does not do nearly enough to ensure the safety of the children, their families, and the hardworking teachers. We urge you to do better, so that we can avoid unnecessary illnesses, deaths, and the possibility of another costly lockdown.

We believe that a truly safe reopening plan will address at least three weaknesses of the current plan

  • Without significantly reducing class sizes, physical distancing is virtually impossible. Public health experts recommend no more than 15 children per classroom. 
  • Allowing kids below grade 4 to not wear masks is very dangerous, as it endangers not only those kids but also teachers and other students in the school. Masks or face coverings should be made mandatory for all grades, with few medical exceptions.
  • We are also concerned by the lack of an early-warning system to prevent and contain outbreaks that are inevitable. A safe reopening requires a rigorous system of screening for symptoms among children and staff, as recommended by the Sick Kids Hospital.

As we have seen in around the world, schools can be a major vector for the virus spread. We are fully in agreement with the need to reopen schools, which is needed for both children, their parents, and the economy. But this should be done safely and requires adequate financial and operational investment. We believe that the current return to school strategy has not taken the safety of the children, teachers and the communities seriously. There is abundant science-based public health guidance available, and your government should adhere to it. There is still time to change course, before more lives are lost needlessly and avoidably.