EASTERN ONTARIO — Children in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region are headed back to their physical classrooms on Monday.
The Ontario government has announced the region is among those where in-person classes resume Feb. 1. Based on the most recent COVID-19 data, the decision to reopen was made in consultation with Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, and local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis.
Not since the 1998 Ice Storm have the kids had such an extended Christmas break — though it pales in comparison to the time off school at the start of the pandemic last spring.
“This is very good news for kids, families and schools,” says Dr. Roumeliotis of the return to classrooms. “The shutdown has been a challenge for everyone, but public health measures are working. We’re seeing a steady decline of new COVID-19 cases in our area, which means that we are able to reopen elementary schools and high schools for in-person classes starting on Monday.” He adds that returning students to in-person learning is essential to the wellbeing, development and mental health of children.
To ensure schools remain safe, the government has introduced additional measures for schools:
• There will be provincewide targeted asymptomatic testing to detect and isolate COVID-19 cases earlier.
• Students in Grades 1-3 (in addition to students in Grades 4-12, as well as staff and visitors) will be required to wear a mask indoors in school, including during classes, in hallways and on school vehicles. Masks will be required outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Children in Kindergarten are encouraged to wear masks.
• Screening for COVID-19 symptoms will be enhanced. Schools will be required to validate that all students, staff and visitors have been screened before arrival at school (using the province’s COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening Tool at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/school-screening).
Dr. Roumeliotis notes that while schools will be permitted to reopen, other public health measures remain in effect, including the provincial stay-at-home order and restrictions for non-essential businesses. “We are making progress in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our region, however it’s very important to continue following public health measures so that we don’t start to see another increase in cases and outbreaks. The more we follow precautions, the more likely our schools will be able to remain open and the sooner we’ll be able to reopen other sectors as well.”
Precautions include limiting non-essential trips into the community, visiting only with members of your own household, wearing a mask and keeping a 2-metre distance from others when you must go into the community, staying home if you are sick, and working from home if possible.
For more information on COVID-19, including the latest local updates, public health advice, testing and vaccine information, visit www.EOHU.ca/coronavirus.