The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is offering guidance ahead of students returning to school.

With schools set to open in September, the Health Unit is working with school boards to support back to school planning and has information and resources to help guide parents in returning their kids.

“The safe return to school is at the forefront of everyone’s minds right now, and we know that it has been difficult to make decisions about whether to send your child or children to school or have them do on-line learning,” Medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner said. “Everyone’s situation is different, and the decision to send your children to school in person needs to be one that works for you and your family.”

The Health Unit notes that returning to school is very important for children and youth – as it benefits their education and well-being.

However, as more spaces open for people to gather, there will potentially be more cases of COVID-19.

As a result, the Health Unit is seeking to take action to help prevent outbreaks and reduce the number of cases.

The health unit is working closely with school boards to prevent COVID-19 transmission as much as possible, to identify and manage cases of COVID-19 and to prevent its further spread in schools.

Gardner says there is no risk-free option with COVID-19, and it would be unrealistic to think that we can get through the next few months without some risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the school classroom.

“The job of parents is to decide which of the options is best for their child and family at this time and the job of the health unit is to continue to keep transmission in the community low to help stop COVID-19 from entering schools in the first place.”

The health unit also adds that keeping community transmission low is key to keeping schools safer, and with local rates currently low, they feel at this time attending school in Simcoe Muskoka is a safe choice for most children and families.

In addition, schools will have many measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 being introduced into the school setting, and to lessen the risk of spread if COVID-19 is introduced.

These measures include:

  • Requiring you to screen your child for symptoms each day.
  • Prompt isolation of sick children and staff.
  • Physical distancing to the extent possible.
  • Enhanced cleaning measures.
  • Cohorting (keeping groups together) to the extent possible.
  • Use of face coverings are required for students in Grades 4 to 12 and encouraged for students in Kindergarten to Grade 3.

SMDHU will continue to work with its school board partners, parents, and the community on the safe return to school and will continue to support schools throughout the year.

More information can be found on the Health Unit’s website.