January 2, 2022
Dear Premier Ford:
Thank you for your commitment to keeping children in schools.
As you know, parents and children have faced enormous challenges through the pandemic. Omicron is adding new stresses and unknowns. Just as we work to ensure essential services such as hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies and public transit remain open, we must do all we can to keep schools open. They are critical for the mental, physical and developmental health of children and youth and for their learning.
We continue to support measures your government announced last week to keep kids in schools, including updating and expanding screening, distributing higher quality masks for teachers and students, maintaining access to PCR testing, increasing ventilation, and pausing high contact extra curriculars.
There has been some lack of clarity in recent days about the details of the return-to-school plan. We would like to reiterate our view about two matters in particular:
- PCR testing must continue to be available for all symptomatic children and staff until such time as a sufficient and sustainable supply of rapid tests are deployed to schools and childcare centres. We believe this to be a critical tool to keep schools as safe as they can be and to sustain in-person learning for students. Using only symptom-based exclusion without access to confirmatory testing will lead to prolonged absenteeism, especially when isolation is required for any symptomatic household member.
- Just as we prioritize those working in other vital sectors for booster shots, teachers, education workers and childcare workers should be immediately prioritized for boosters.
Further, we continue to support measures to vaccinate children five to 11, including targeted strategies to Ontario’s diverse communities to ensure maximum uptake.
These measures as noted above are all important to instill confidence in Ontario’s families in sending their children to school and childcare at this time.
Our organizations continue to be committed to supporting the government and public health units to implement the above measures as we must do all that we can to keep schools open.
Vice President Clinical Programs, Children’s Hospital – London Health Sciences Centre
Chief Executive Officer, Empowered Kids Ontario
Dr. Ronald Cohn
President and CEO of The Hospital for Sick Children
Executive Director, Kids Health Alliance
President and CEO, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
Chief Executive Officer, Children’s Mental Health Ontario
President and Chief Executive Officer, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario
President, McMaster Children’s Hospital and VP, Women’s & Children’s Health, Hamilton Health Sciences