Briefs of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
“In-person schooling is essential for children and youth for both academic educational attainment and for the development of social, emotional growth and life skills. Schools are a place where children gain essential academic skills, form friendships, learn social and life skills, and are key settings for physical activity. Schools provide critical services that help to mitigate health disparities, including school nutrition programs, public health services (immunizations, dental screening), health care services (speech and language therapy, occupational therapy), social services and mental health supports. Schools should therefore remain open for in-person learning.
Optimizing the health and safety of children and staff in schools requires that certain health and safety measures be in place, irrespective of the COVID-19 pandemic. These “permanent” measures include achieving and maintaining adequate indoor air quality, environmental cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, students and staff staying home when sick and up-to-date routine and recommended immunizations for students and staff.
Temporary infection-related health and safety measures (e.g., masking, physical distancing, cohorting, active screening, testing) can help reduce the transmission of communicable illnesses in schools. However, some can pose additional challenges to school operations, student learning and student wellness. Furthermore, some of these measures may adversely impact social connectedness, which is of vital importance for children of all ages and of heightened significance in the adolescent years. Therefore, a thoughtful approach based on real-time local level analysis is recommended before reintroducing these temporary measures after careful consideration of the potential benefits and negative consequences. Given that schools are not isolated from communities, implementation of these temporary measures should not be done in isolation of community measures for indoor spaces. These temporary measures are not expected to be required at the start of the 2022 school year.”