Thursday, September 29, 2022

Parents are eagerly waiting for the news whether schools will reopen in January

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Like many parents in the province, Shoshanah Deaton eagerly awaits news of whether schools will reopen in January.

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The Ottawa mother of two, who attend Francogenes Elementary School, is also a family physician who works at a COVID-19 assessment center in Rockland, so she has a front row seat on the situation as cases rise in Ontario. Is.

Deaton says her kids need school – a position echoed by pediatricians, mental health experts, teachers and working parents, who will have to scramble to once again move students to online classes at home .

But Deaton is not optimistic.

“I don’t think schools can open safely in January,” she says.

“If they do open, the authorities need to be honest that there will be widespread infection. Now utterance of words or cleanliness cannot be theatre. Teachers will be given N95 (masks), although I highly doubt that proper masks will be given to students, but what if all these people eat and drink?”

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COVID-19 testing centers in Ottawa are overwhelmed. Contact tracing is getting delayed.

In Francogenesis, Deaton and some parents spent the days before Christmas informing other parents themselves, using Facebook and email, about two positive cases at school. They were concerned that children exposed to COVID-19 who should have been isolated may go to holiday gatherings instead of grandparents and other vulnerable people.

The ability to test, detect and isolate is a cornerstone of infection management, says Deaton.

She says additional safety measures at the school would also help, such as more air filters, higher quality masks and smaller classes.

“But I’m not sure an umbrella is enough when there’s a tornado. I think these (measures) will be important, but to crunch the numbers a bit before I think it’s safe to send my kids back Will happen.

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Fellow parent Mindy Sichel says she’s torn. She says the online classes adopted sporadically during the first two school years of the pandemic were a “disaster” for her son, who is now 11.

But his son has only one vaccine dose. Sichel worries about her going back to her personal classes. “I’m so scared of (COVID) numbers.”

Premier Doug Ford said on Tuesday that the province would make a decision about schools in the next few days.

In Ottawa, classes are due to resume in English language schools on January 3 and in French language schools on January 10.

At a media conference on December 21, Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, reiterated his commitment to keeping schools open, saying he saw no reason to delay returning to individual classes at the time, but that they Watching the situation carefully. ,

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In Ottawa, an explosion of outbreaks occurred over the past several weeks before schools were sacked for the holidays.

On 23 December, the last day of classes for French-language boards, there were open outbursts in 22 primary and 10 secondary schools. Eight French language schools were listed as closed due to COVID-19.

If schools reopen in January, when community transmission of the virus is high, they could also face problems working if a substantial number of workers come forward and have to isolate. That’s what happened in Kingston’s COVID-19 hot spot earlier this month, when schools at the Limestone District School Board were closed due to staff shortages and difficulty finding replacements.

At the same time, experts stress the devastating impact on children’s mental health and social development when schools are closer to individual learning.

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A report last summer on Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table said school closures should be part of pandemic control measures “only in the most dire circumstances.”

“The physical, emotional and developmental health of children and youth has been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed on schools. School disruptions, including school closures and the implementation of education models that have reduced direct contact between children, their peers and their teachers (eg, online learning), have caused significant learning disruptions, amplifying educational inequalities and deprived children of other aids and activities. Food is available through programs, physical activity and sports, and through schools including clubs and teams.”

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At the time, Canada had the longest disruption of face-to-face learning in Ontario, the report said.

Moore said the decision of what happens to schools ultimately rests with the government.

What can be done to improve school safety? Doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, education unions, school boards, parent groups and opposition politicians have offered plenty of suggestions in Queens Park. Here are four of the most cited:

Vaccination: Vaccination is the main means of protection against COVID-19. Children between the ages of five and 11 are being vaccinated now, but most will not be given two doses (plus two weeks) until February-March.

Education unions asked the government to give priority to booster doses to teachers.

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The provincial government has resisted pressure to require teachers and other teachers to be vaccinated, although some boards, including the English and French language public boards in Ottawa, have implemented their own mandatory vaccination policies.

Dr. Moore has rejected the idea of ​​adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of immunizations students need to go to school. He said it was too early to change, and also noted that the province’s schoolchildren’s Vaccination Act doesn’t make vaccinations mandatory anyway because parents can get an exemption for their child.

Ventilation and Air Filtration: Ontario says ventilation has been improved in all schools and air filters have been added to many classrooms. Critics say much more could be done, including measuring air quality, enforcing standards, and installing filters in every classroom.

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Better Masks: According to an education association, the education ministry has apparently agreed to allow school boards to order N95 masks for teachers. However, the ministry declined to confirm whether this would happen, who would get the masks and when.

Several school boards, including the Ottawa-Carlton Board, have agreed to allow education workers to wear N95 masks if they buy their own.

Rapid Antigen Test: The Ministry of Education made 11 million rapid tests available for primary and secondary students to use at home during the holidays. The goal is to identify infections and keep students out of schools when they return to the classroom.

Critics have called on the government to regularly make rapid tests available to both students and staff when schools resume. However, the tests are lacking, according to Premier Ford, who says Ontario is trying to source more.

The government has also made available take-home tests in schools.

jmiller@postmedia.com

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