SickKids statement on deferring in-person school attendance
As always, our first priority is the health and well-being of children and their families/caregivers. There is no easy or single solution to this complex issue that is different across various regions of Ontario. We concur that school closures should be a last resort for pandemic control and that relentless emphasis needs to be placed on reducing community transmission.
In light of the current high levels of community prevalence and positivity rates as well as the newly characterized COVID-19 variant, strict implementation of bundled infection prevention and control measures (appropriate ventilation, mandatory masking, physical distancing, cohorting, screening, handwashing) and a robust test-trace-isolate-support strategy must be in place to facilitate a safe re-opening. A customized approach should be taken to closing schools providing additional targeted support to schools and families in communities with the highest risk of transmission. In this regard, we advocate for the appropriate levels of support using an equity framework to ensure that schools are able to open for in-person learning as soon as possible.
While most children continue to not get very sick from COVID-19, we know from the first wave of the pandemic that school closures have serious impacts on the physical and mental health of children and youth. The reopening of schools in the fall was successful on a large scale at a time when community transmission was low. Taking the time now to focus on lowering the level of community transmission and enhancing in-school mitigation strategies is absolutely critical to ensuring everyone’s safety.