Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

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RNAO's advice for reopening schools in Ontario

With approximately two million school-age children and 160,000 teachers in Ontario, it is clear the health and well-being of these children, their parents, teachers and staff must be central to the decision-making process for reopening schools. We must make decisions that avoid major risk to health and life, and continuously consider the impact on the pandemic curve.

In a letter to Dr. David Williams, RNAO calls on the Ontario government to reopen schools following these recommendations:

  • A fundamental factor in the success of school reopening is the continued containment of the virus and absence (or very low levels) of community spread. This may require curtailing other societal activities that are lower priority, such as closing indoor bars and restaurants and reducing numbers for other indoor events.
  • The province must rethink its position on not mandating smaller class sizes for elementary schools. This position is unjustified, contradicts the recommendations of experts and public health officials, and may lead to many harmful effects. Class sizes should be reduced and proper funding must flow to the school boards immediately. 
  • Masks must be mandatory for all students in schools. We know children as young as three years of age can be taught to wear a mask and do this consistently over a period of time.
  • Assuring physical distancing and appropriate class sizes would allow scheduled breaks from using masks (mandatory for all students) during the school day, targeting their use to situations where there is no physical distancing, such as when students are moving within the classroom, hallways, bathrooms and other congested spaces.
  • The opening of schools should be postponed, if necessary, until all the conditions are in place for a safe reopening, including smaller class sizes.

As mentioned in the last issue of In the Loop, RNAO welcomes the addition of 500 school-focused public health nurses. They must be located in public health units to provide rapid-response support to schools and boards in facilitating public health and preventive measures, including screening, testing, tracing and mitigation strategies. Furthermore, we believe these should be permanent positions as children and youth would benefit immensely. To learn more about our position, please read our letter to Dr. David Williams. 
 

Last Updated: 
2020-08-21