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Health Unit still prioritizing a return to classrooms

'We recognize the positive impact a return to in-person learning will have for our children and youth' and for parents and guardians 'who have been doing their best to balance online learning with work and home life'
2020 10 15 -chippewa-classroom-crop
Most classrooms have been without students since the rescheduled spring break in April.

Although the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit acknowledges it has had no further direction from the province, officials remain supportive of a return to the classroom for students before this school year ends.

"The priority from the Health Unit's perspective is getting schools reopened," advised Public Health Physician Dr. Carol Zimbalatti, who led the Health Unit's weekly media availability, Thursday. "Of course, we will follow provincial guidance on that but that is what we are really advocating for."

Dr. David Williams, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer and medical officers of health across the province — including our district's Dr. Jim Chirico — are advocating for a return to the classroom before Ontario embarks on its Roadmap to Reopen.

"We recognize the positive impact a return to in-person learning will have for our children and youth," said Louise Gagne, Executive Director of Community Services.

Gagne added the benefits also extend to parents and guardians "who have been doing their best to balance online learning with work and home life."

See related: When will students return to school?

See also: Health officials 'would love to see students back in school'

The Health Unit remains confident in a safe return to school as the lack of outbreaks to date points to successful screening and appropriate use of PPE. "We have all the precautions in place," said Gagne. 

Although there have been positive cases of COVID-19 detected in members of school communities, no official outbreaks have been declared.

"We have responded quickly when there has been a case within a school — dismissing appropriate cohorts — and in some cases, when there was linkage to a variant of concern, we dismissed an entire school cohort," observed Gagne. "Based on these experiences, we feel confident that schools can reopen safely when they are allowed to do so by the province."

The Health Unit has made its position clear and awaits further provincial direction — although the school year is down to a matter of weeks remaining.

"If the indicators are good then we would like to see school reopened prior to other sectors, potentially," added Zimbalatti. "We encourage and support the province in the slow approach they are taking to the reopening. We would not encourage a more hasty response than the indicators would suggest that we should follow."


Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for BayToday.ca, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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