Schools could return by end of May, Etches says

·2 min read
Ontario's schools were moved to remote learning after the delayed spring break, but both Mayor Jim Watson and Dr. Vera Etches say there are signs classes could resume by the end of this month. (Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Ontario's schools were moved to remote learning after the delayed spring break, but both Mayor Jim Watson and Dr. Vera Etches say there are signs classes could resume by the end of this month. (Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Ottawa's medical officer of health and the city's mayor say if local COVID-19 indicators keep declining, there's a chance the province could allow students to return to in-person classes by the end of May.

At a news conference Wednesday, Dr. Vera Etches and Mayor Jim Watson called for a regional approach to reopening, noting that indicators in the city's wastewater and the recent downward trend in hospitalizations are encouraging.

They said they'd shared those positive trends with the Ontario government.

"It's looking positive to be able to open schools toward the end of May if the rate of COVID continues to come down in our community," she said.

WATCH | The likelihood of schools reopening this month:

However, she warned the current infection rate — about 75 per 100,000 people — is about twice what the rate was when schools reopened in February.

High levels of COVID-19 in the community, Etches said, increases the risk of it getting into schools.

"We have to continue to be cautious. The level of protection from vaccines isn't enough to stop a resurgence at this point," she said. "The stay-at-home order is what's working right now to bring levels down."

'Makes good sense'

Ottawa may be in a better position to open schools sooner than other hard-hit places like Peel Region and Toronto, said Mayor Jim Watson.

"Opening the schools on a regional basis makes good sense," Watson said. "The first priority for all of us here is to get our school system back up and running at least so the kids can have at least a month of in-class learning."

City public health officials have also said schools will likely provide an important venue for vaccinating children against the virus.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only one Health Canada has authorized for use in children as young as 12 so far.

Ontario schools were moved to remote learning following the delayed spring break in April 2021.