Schools are safe to operate without strict COVID-19 protocols, according to the Ontario Science Table and researchers from SickKids Hospital.

In its report, the Science Table calls for a return of most activities in schools this fall and dropping mask mandates, social distancing and cohorting.

The report also does not recommend vaccinating children as a precondition to return to school.

“In-person learning is essential for the learning and overall well-being of children and youth,” the report reads. “Therefore, barring catastrophic circumstances, schools should remain open for in-person learning.”

While the report recommends many protocols to be dropped, one of the key measures the Science Table recommends to keep in place is active screening for COVID-19 symptoms and the need to stay at home. 

“Asymptomatic screen testing (i.e., asymptomatic testing in the absence of documented exposure), is not routinely recommended, especially in the low to moderate COVID-19 risk scenarios,” the report says.

The report from Ontario’s Science Table is a relief for many parents and students in Ontario. Schools across the province have been shuttered due to endless government lockdowns.

In the past 15 months, Ontario public school students have only been in school for approximately 5 months. The closure of schools has had a negative effect on students, according to a number of leading children’s health and pediatrics organizations.

In June, the Children’s Health Coalition released an open letter condemning Ontario’s decision to keep schools closed. 

“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. 

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Harrison Faulkner is producer and journalist for True North based in Toronto.

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