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Home Health Announcement on Ontario schools ‘imminent’, medical officers of health chair says

Announcement on Ontario schools ‘imminent’, medical officers of health chair says

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One of Ontario’s top doctors is suggesting kids could be going back to school in the province before the end of the school year.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, the medical officer of health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit and the chair of the Council of Medical Officers of Health, told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s “Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts” on Tuesday that he’s spoken with Premier Doug Ford about the return to class.

“He said that they were going to be looking at it this week. They had received our letter, they had received other letters, and they were going to look at it over the weekend and make some kind of announcement this week,” Roumeliotis said.

“I’m not ruling out schools coming back May 31.”

The calls to reopen schools in Ontario for in-person learning have been growing louder since the province announced its latest reopening plan, which did not include schools.

Last week, CHEO and several other children’s hospitals and child health advocates launched a campaign to raise awareness about what they called a mental health emergency among kids who have been out of school since the April break.

Roumeliotis said he fully supports returning students to classrooms, where appropriate.

“People say, ‘The school year’s almost over. Why are you doing that?’ Well, you’re giving everybody a glimmer of hope,” he said. “You’re giving people a bit of a break. They’ll go for three, four weeks, they’ll see their friends, clean out their desks, go home and then we start fresh in the new (school) year. I think this is just the start of their mental health rehabilitation.”

Roumeliotis suspects the province will announce a regional plan for returning students to school.

“I don’t think it’ll be appropriate that the GTA does it, but I think the rest of the province will be able to do that,” he said. “I think we’ll get an announcement imminently.”

Ford said last week that he was concerned about a projected increase of up to 11 per cent in COVID-19 case counts when asked about reopening schools.

Scientists advising the government released projections last Thursday that showed a six to 11 per cent increase in case counts was possible if schools were to reopen June 2; however, the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table said, “this may be manageable.”

Elementary and secondary school students have already returned to in-person learning in Quebec, and students in most of Alberta returned to class on Tuesday. 

–With files from The Canadian Press.

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