Toronto, ON, April 6, 2021: Schools are closing and more may shut down in-person learning because we haven’t been able to contain community transmission of coronavirus in Ontario. Collectively, we have failed our children.
We are calling on the government to recognize the hardship kids and families will face and do everything in their power to re-open schools where they have closed as soon as possible and save the school year.
As leaders in children’s health care, we believe that schools should be the last to close and the first to open. We know that long-term school closures can seriously harm the learning, mental health and development of children. Children who face the most harm from the loss of in-person learning are often also those most at risk: children from racialized communities, low-income families, children with disabilities, children with mental illness and children with learning difficulties.
At the same time, we fully recognize that schools, above all, must be safe learning environments. We have known all along that the greatest threat to safety in our schools comes from outside their walls.
That is why the Children’s Health Coalition is joining the Ontario Hospital Association, the Ontario Medical Association, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario and others in calling on the government to put in place enhanced measures to urgently reverse the trend in community transmission and respond to the crisis in adult critical care, while better protecting children from the overall harmful impacts of the pandemic. The measures that we are immediately advocating for include, but are not limited to:
- The strictest measures to be put in place to reduce community spread and reverse the trend, including paid sick days for essential workers.
- Refocus our vaccine strategy on prioritizing essential workers in hot spot neighbourhoods, including teachers and early childhood educators, other education staff and caregivers of kids with serious illness or chronic conditions.
- Ramp up efforts to ensure strong infection prevention and control strategies, partnered with robust testing, tracing and prioritization of the highest risk communities.
- Put in place supports to minimize the negative impact of school closures on the education, health and well-being of all children across the socio-economic spectrum with a health equity lens.
- A provincial campaign to improve vaccine confidence and increase uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, especially for those who have been disproportionately impacted.
Ending in-person learning should only be done as a last resort and will be ineffective if not accompanied by other stricter measures that include things like the paid sick days for essential workers, closure of non-essential retail businesses and where possible, sending all staff to work from home.
Parents, caregivers and families deserve a safe place to send their children for school. When schools are closing, they need that information as soon as possible to plan accordingly.
The need for action is urgent. If we don’t act swiftly to protect schools, education workers and students, we may have no choice but to face another long-term school closure, which can have devastating and long-term impacts on children, youth and families.
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About the Children’s Health Coalition: The Children’s Health Coalition is a growing collective of children’s health organizations, including CHEO, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, SickKids, McMaster Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital – London Health Sciences Centre, Children’s Mental Health Ontario and Empowered Kids Ontario.
Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO of The Hospital for Sick Children
Julia Hanigsberg, President and CEO, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
Alex Munter, President and Chief Executive Officer, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario
Bruce Squires, President, McMaster Children’s Hospital and VP, Women’s & Children’s Health, Hamilton Health Sciences
Jatinder Bains, VP of Children’s Hospital and Women’s Programs, London Health Sciences Centre
Jennifer Churchill, Chief Executive Officer, Empowered Kids Ontario
Kimberly Moran, Chief Executive Officer, Children’s Mental Health Ontario
For more information, please contact:
Jessica Behnke, firstname.lastname@example.org, 647-400-9208
Kathleen Powderley, Kathleen@responsiblecomm.ca, 416-803-5597