Science Advisory table recommends schools get ‘back to normal’ this fall

Should come with sports and clubs, no daily health checks at the door, and optional masking

Ontario’s schools should resume normal activities this fall, says a report from the province’s science advisory table and pediatric hospitals.

And the return to school, it says, should come with sports and clubs, no daily health checks at the door, and optional masking – so long as there is no spike in COVID cases.

The report says Queen’s Park should do everything it can to avoid a repeat of last year, adding that closing schools should not be used as a lever for pandemic control.

It also strongly recommends vaccination but stops short of saying shots should be mandatory for students and education workers.

Ari Bitnun, a pediatric infectious disease physician at SickKids and one of the lead authors of the document, said a key lesson from the last school year is that shuttering schools did more damage to students than the coronavirus itself. “Their general health, their mental health, their socialization skills, and their overall well-being is significantly worsened by not being in school,” he said. “When you compare that to the adverse consequences of COVID in kids, the balance, in our view, is that they should be in school.” Bitnun The vast majority of COVID infections in children are mild or asymptomatic.

An education ministry spokesperson says it’s too early to say how much of the report the Ontario government and individual school boards will adopt. However,Caitlin Clark, said the government’s back-to-school plan “will work to ensure a more normal in-class learning experience, including reinstating clubs, sports, and extra-curriculars.”