Medical Officer of Health urges parents to weigh their concerns in the lead-up to back-to-school

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MANITOULIN – The rapidly evolving return-to-school plan is raising many questions, challenges and emotions which Public Health Sudbury and District’s (PHSD) medical officer of health, Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, is hoping parents will weigh out. 

“You may be weighing many things as you try to figure out what is right for your personal situation,” Dr. Sutcliffe said in a press release from PHSD. “Over the past several weeks, I have heard from many parents, caregivers, educators, school support staff and other members of our community. They are sharing worries about how to balance issues such as the physical and emotional health of children, students, family members, and educators; access to child care and other services; and jobs and personal family finances.”

“Know that I hear and acknowledge these concerns. The decision to proceed with either in-school or online enrolment is difficult and personal, and there is no one right answer. PHSD will continue to provide up-to-date public health information and analysis to help you with your decisions. We are also working hard with education partners to support them as they implement the Ministry of Education direction.

“Make no mistake—the best way to support safe and successful school reopening is to keep COVID-19 out of our communities. The lower the risk of the virus in our communities, the lower the risk in our schools. This means that now, more than ever, we need to recommit to COVID-19 prevention. The decisions we take now—to wash our hands, keep two-metres distance from people not in our social circle, wear a mask or face covering, and to stay home when ill and seek testing—will make all the difference for our schools’ safety and for our kids’ health.

“I strongly urge us all to be kind, patient and respectful of one another as we navigate these next steps. There are many unknowns, many different personal circumstances, and many different emotions. Asking good questions is key. Keep yourself informed of provincial direction and get engaged in local decisions. We all have a responsibility to do the best we can to support our kids as we walk this unprecedented path together.”

PHSD provided starter questions for parents and guardians as they think about their own personal circumstances and if they are best suited for in-school or online learning: Do you, your children, or anyone in your social circle have a health condition?; do you have access to child care, if required?; Does your child require in-class learning with a professional?; could you and your child manage online instruction at home?; how can you best balance the physical with the social and emotional health of your child?; what are the important job and economic circumstances in your home that might impact your decision?; and regardless of your ‘today’ decision, what plans can you put into place for a “plan B”, should you change your decision in the future?

“In closing, I would like to acknowledge and celebrate the super-hero status of parents, guardians, educators, school staff and the broader community over the course of the pandemic.,” Dr. Sutcliffe added. “Back-to-school matters so much because we care so much.”

“Together, we will learn, together we will adapt, and together we will be proud of our collective efforts for a safe and successful return to school.”