MUSKOKA, ON-The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is offering their thoughts and comments on the return to school this September. 

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Garder, with the SMDHU, noted in a press conference that there is a concern with students returning to school but said that it would be another great test for the community in flattening the curve and keeping the pandemic under control. 

As school boards prepare for the reopening, Gardner said that the health unit would be available to assist and help with whatever they need as he said it is important for schools to reopen, especially for young children, as it has an effect on their mental health.

“There is some risk with COVID-19, and opening up the schools, we need to balance, maintain and manage that risk as we open up because it is critically important.”     

In terms of managing a potential outbreak in schools, Gardner confirmed that a guideline would be released by the government in the next little while to help give the health unit some direction. 

When schools reopen, Gardner noted that it is very important to ensure schools are putting the proper measures in place so to not only to protect other students but teachers as well, but concerns have arisen about physical distancing limitations. 

“We know that is going to be a challenge with full classes for a full day. That will have to be compensated by other practices such as sanitation for older children and teacher mask use.”

When asked about schools offering families the chance to return to online education and the health unit’s stance on it, Gardner said that it was important to provide families with a choice so that they can decide how they would like their children to be educated. He did offer his concerns about mental health issues that could possibly develop if isolation continues.  

He alternatively noted that there are children with pre-existing medical conditions, so having this option available for those individuals would let children avoid coming in contact with any asymptomatic individuals.