If students residing in the North Bay–Parry Sound district do return to their classrooms this spring, those who attend the three local schools that recently experienced interruptions due to cases of COVID-19 in their school communities will join them.
Silver Birches Elementary School in North Bay and both White Woods Public School and Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Elementary School in Sturgeon Falls will all be deemed "resolved," as of Friday, shared Dr. Carol Zimbalatti, Public Health Physician with the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, meaning "individuals considered 'high-risk' are no longer required to self-isolate."
No outbreaks were declared in relation to any of the cases associated with the three schools. Zimbalatti, speaking during the Health Unit's weekly media conference advised, "No in-school transmission was observed with any of these cases."
In 2020, students did not return to in-school learning for the balance of the school year following the spring break in March. This year, the spring break was pushed to April and most students commenced online learning earlier this week.
Asked whether teachers and staff members will receive vaccinations ahead of a possible return to school, Zimbalatti pointed out the list of essential workers waiting for vaccinations is long and several factors would determine that outcome.
"We do have [only] a limited supply. In an ideal world, we would get everyone vaccinated as soon as possible," Zimbalatti offered. "But, that may not be possible. So, we'll just have to wait and see how the numbers and the indices play out, in terms of indicating when a return to school might be reasonable and see where we are with the vaccination of the teachers."
Prior to the announcement of the shift to online learning province-wide, while some southern Ontario schools moved to keep students home, the local Health Unit explained its stance on continuing in-school instruction saying, "Being at school with peers and educators has a positive impact on children and youth’s social, emotional, and physical well-being."
Added Louise Gagné, Director of Community Services with the Health Unit, "Many students in our district face barriers to remote learning, and in some cases, barriers that go beyond access to internet and technology."