Mid August 2021
A CLASS OF OUR OWN
Ontario’s rules too restrictive compared to other provinces
The Ontario government’s long awaited back to school plan is a step forward that contains aspects that will no doubt be welcomed by the many parents eager to see their kids finally get back to the classroom and some semblance of normal life.
The document released a week ago Tuesday, by the Ministry of Education, commits to a return to in person learning for the fall for all age groups, while maintaining remote learning as an option for those who want it.
It also ditches outdoor masking for all students and makes indoor masking voluntary for junior and senior kindergarten students. Students will be allowed, though, to remove their masks for gym class when they “engage in low contact physical activity.”
While elementary school students will still need to be in cohorts (group of people), they will not have to remain in them during recess and outdoor play.
“Clubs, activities, sports teams, bands (without wind instruments) and extracurriculars are permitted,” the guide says. “Cohorts may interact outdoors with physical distancing encouraged and indoors with masking and appropriate distancing.”
All staff and students are asked to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms before coming to school and practice what they describe as hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. There is no mention of making vaccines mandatory for teachers and staff.
Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce are probably hoping they’re striking the right balance with the guidebook, which evolves Ontario’s school rules from where they were in the last school year, but clings to policies that other jurisdictions had abandoned long ago.
British Columbia, for example, has never made masks mandatory for kindergarten to Grade 3 students and their schools experience has been heralded by many pediatricians across the country as a success to be copied.
It seems silly to think that adults in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan are not required to wear masks at all yet small children will still have to wear them in Ontario.
That said, it sadly should be no surprise that the Ontario school rules will remain some of the strictest in the country. That’s because this province has consistently been one of the worst jurisdictions in North America when it comes to fearmongering about COVID and kids.
Former chief medical officer Dr. David Williams stressed multiple times that there had hardly been any in class transmission of the virus, but the good news was not amplified enough.
Data has also been clear for some time that COVID-19 is less serious than influenza in children – with the hospitalization rates to back it up.
There will always be those who are against progress on the COVID-19 file and sadly, it seems that Ontario has more than its fair share of such people.
But the time has come to make big advances. The place where we need to do this most is when it comes to letting our kids be kids and that means giving them the education and socialization that they have been deprived of for far too long.
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