Statement from the Medical Officer of Health on the fall 2020 return to school

On Thursday, July 30, 2020, the provincial government announced the September reopening of Ontario schools. This announcement is the subject of much discussion as families and educators work to make the best decisions for the health of students – the health of our kids. Public Health Sudbury & Districts is committed to doing all we can to support safe school reopening.

The rapidly evolving return-to-school plan is raising many questions, challenges, and emotions. You may be weighing many things as you try to figure out what is right for your personal situation. Over the past several weeks, I have heard from many parents, caregivers, educators, school support staff, and other members of our community. They are sharing worries about how to balance issues such as the physical and emotional health of children, students, family members, and educators; access to child care and other services; and jobs and personal family finances.

Know that I hear and acknowledge these concerns. The decision to proceed with either in-school or online enrolment is difficult and personal, and there is no one right answer. Public Health Sudbury & Districts will continue to provide up-to-date public health information and analysis to help you with your decisions. We are also working hard with education partners to support them as they implement the Ministry of Education direction.

Make no mistake—the best way to support safe and successful school reopening is to keep COVID-19 out of our communities. The lower the risk of the virus in our communities, the lower the risk in our schools. This means that now, more than ever, we need to recommit to COVID-19 prevention. The decisions we take now—to wash our hands, keep 2-metres distance from people not in our social circle, wear a mask or face covering, and to stay home when ill and seek testing—will make all the difference for our schools’ safety and for our kids’ health.

I strongly urge us all to be kind, patient, and respectful of one another as we navigate these next steps. There are many unknowns, many different personal circumstances, and many different emotions. Asking good questions is key. Keep yourself informed of provincial direction and get engaged in local decisions. We all have a responsibility to do the best we can to support our kids as we walk this unprecedented path together.

The following “starter” questions may be helpful as you think about whether your personal circumstances are best suited for in-school or online learning:

  • Do you, your children, or anyone in your social circle have a health condition?
  • Do you have access to child care, if required?
  • Does your child require in-class learning with a professional?
  • Could you and your child manage online instruction at home?
  • How can you best balance the physical with the social and emotional health of your child?
  • What are the important job and economic circumstances in your home that might impact your decision?
  • Regardless of your “today” decision, what plans can you put into place for a “plan B”, should you change your decision in the future?

In closing, I would like to acknowledge and celebrate the super-hero status of parents, guardians, educators, school staff, and the broader community over the course of the pandemic. Back-to-school matters so much because we care so much.

Together, we will learn, together we will adapt, and together we will be proud of our collective efforts for a safe and successful return to school.

Thank you,

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe

For more information or if you have questions or concerns, please visit our website, keep connected with our Facebook and Twitter pages, or call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200).

This item was last modified on August 14, 2020