Ontario students have been taking distance education since the April break (carried over from March break), with the exception of students in Peel, Toronto and Guelph who have been relocated previously.
Ford requested that answers be submitted by 5 p.m. Friday and attached seven questions.
COVID-19: Schools to remain closed as Ontario unveils plan to reopen
“Over the past few weeks, there has been a wide range of advice and commentary regarding the reopening of schools in Ontario,” Ford wrote. “There is consensus in some quarters about how, when and whether schools should reopen, and divergent and conflicting views in others.”
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Parents, critics and experts in Ontario have called for resuming in-person learning due to the possibility of negative effects on students regarding their mental health.
Dr. Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, previously said schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen.
Ford said there were differing opinions on whether or not to open schools, noting the province’s chief medical officer of health was in favor of reopening schools. However, the prime minister said some doctors on the science table were not in favor.
Modeling figures released last Thursday indicated that if schools were to reopen on June 2, after the current stay-at-home order expires, those cases could increase by 6-11%.
Ontario school boards could resume in-person learning with a few days’ notice
“We expect new modeling this week that will place the range of new cases associated with reopening schools between 2,000 and 4,000 cases by the end of July. It’s worrying, ”Ford wrote.
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The letter also cited a recent UK study that found a single dose of vaccine to be only 33% effective against the B.1.617.2 variant first identified in India.
“What makes all of this new information concerning is that only 41 percent of teachers and education workers are vaccinated compared to 62 percent of the general adult population in Ontario,” Ford wrote.
In addition, many students are not yet vaccinated at all due to a lack of supplies, he said.
Here are the seven questions asked by Ford:
- Is reopening schools for in-person learning safe for students?
- Is reopening schools for in-person learning safe for teachers and all education staff?
- There is an increasing number of cases in Ontario of the variant first identified in India (B.1.617). Does this mutation present an increased risk for students and education workers?
- Modeling from the Ontario Science Table suggests that reopening schools will lead to an increase in the number of cases in the province of Ontario, is this acceptable and safe?
- Other countries are reporting mutations, including variant B.1.617 which puts children at much greater risk and closes schools. Is this concern not shared by medical experts in Ontario?
- Do teachers need to be fully immunized before returning to class, and if not, is one dose sufficient?
- As part of Ontario’s plan to reopen, indoor gatherings will not begin until July. Should classroom teaching resume before this date?
Several Ontario school boards said on Wednesday they would be able to resume in-person learning with a few days’ notice if the government decided to send students back to class for the last month of the school year.
–With files from the Canadian Press
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