Etches, CHEO say schools must stay open

·2 min read
Schools in Ontario will remain open during the provincewide shutdown expected to be imposed starting Saturday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce tweeted.  (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)
Schools in Ontario will remain open during the provincewide shutdown expected to be imposed starting Saturday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce tweeted. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)

Ottawa's medical officer of health and the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) are advocating for schools to remain open despite the climbing number of COVID-19 cases in Ottawa and the looming provincewide shutdown.

This week, Dr. Vera Etches said she asked the province to move Ottawa into the grey-lockdown zone of its colour-coded pandemic alert system, but asked to keep schools open.

"I am not advocating for schools to close," she told reporters Wednesday.

Etches went on to say that the level of COVID-19 in the city is difficult for schools as Ottawa is seeing a large number of school-age children testing positive. But she said that was only more reason for people to continue to follow public health guidelines.

"We know that schools are an essential support to children and families. Without schools as a support many families don't even know what they'll do right now to cope because they've used all their vacation. They can't stay home and be unpaid and still pay their rent," Etches said.

Multiple sources say Premier Doug Ford will announce plans on Thursday to move the whole province into what the government describes as "shutdown" measures.

Schools key to children's well-being: doctor

Lindy Samson, chief of staff with CHEO, pleaded with the public to follow guidelines in order to get COVID-19 under control. She said schools remaining open is "key to the overall health and well-being of our children and youth."

"Schools should be the last things to close and the first things to open," Samson said.

In a tweet, Ontario's Minister of Education Stephen Lecce confirmed schools will remain open next week.

In a statement, a spokesperson from the ministry went on to say the April break will continue as planned and new safety protocols will be put in place following the break.

School boards in Ottawa are ready to transition to virtual learning in the event the province makes that announcement. All four boards have sent students home with various tools to learn from home, including Chromebooks, just in case in-person learning is suspended after the Easter long weekend.

Education unions in some of the worst-hit regions have called for classes to move online-only immediately after this long weekend.