Several leading children’s health and pediatrics organizations are condemning the Ontario government for refusing to open schools in the province for in-person learning.
The Children’s Health Coalition, which is composed of SicKids, Empowered Kids Ontario, McMaster’s Children’s Hospital and several other children’s health groups released a statement on the matter on Wednesday.
“As leaders in children’s health, we are deeply disappointed that Ontario has not acted upon the broad consensus for a regional re-opening of in-person learning. This consensus included children’s healthcare, public health, scientific experts and teachers’ organizations,” wrote the Children’s Health Coalition.
“In the past 15 months, Ontario public school students have only been in school for approximately five months. There are few places in the world where kids have been out of school more than in Ontario, and no other Canadian province has had school closures this long.”
The statement was prompted by the Ontario government’s announcement earlier today that it would not allow students to return to the classroom until September.
“By remaining cautious and vigilant, we protect our summer. We protect September,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce during a press conference.
According to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, the Ontario government can’t justify the decision to re-open the schools without assurances that it wouldn’t lead to an increase in new COVID-19 cases.
Prior to the decision to close schools, the coalition put out a statement urging the Ontario government to open the schools for in-person learning. The statement noted how school closures have created a mental health crisis for kids in the province.
“We are witnessing a crisis in children’s mental health with a dramatic increase in the utilization of acute mental health services. Schools play an essential role in the recovery process. In-person school provides students with routine and structure, accountability, socialization and recognition of abuse and neglect,” claimed an open letter by the group.
Ontario is currently the only province where students are being prohibited from attending school.