The following is a message from Medical Officers of Health from Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) and Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington Public Health (KFL&APH) regarding the return to school for students and educators:
As local students prepare to return to the classrooms in September, we anticipate that the 2022/2023 school year will proceed with minimal disruptions. Classroom learning continues to offer the best educational, social, and emotional experiences for children and youth, and we are encouraged that many activities such as clubs, groups, and sport teams, will take place this year. Students are encouraged to get involved and participate in extracurricular activities to discover what interests them. These activities are beneficial for students’ physical, social, and mental health.
As with any time of transition, the return to school may be stressful for some families and students. All of us – including our youngest residents – have been through a lot over the past few years. Students may require more support as they return to the classroom. While family support is essential to help students identify and respond to stress, additional supports are also available. Find information on our agencies’ websites or ask your student’s school about any in-school support that might be available.
While there continues to be a risk of COVID-19, as with other infectious illnesses, families and educators must all work together to keep the risk as low as possible. We must continue to follow these practical public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
- Screen for illness each school day, and stay home (or keep your child home) if sick. If anyone has symptoms of COVID-19, even mild ones, they should stay home. This will help prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as other infectious illnesses. Follow instructions provided on the school screening tool, and any additional guidance available at Ontario.ca/exposed regarding isolation and/or masking requirements.
- Check your students’ vaccination records and keep up to date. Up to date vaccination records for regular childhood vaccines are required for students attending school in Ontario. Due to COVID-19 related closures and service delays, many children and youth are not up to date on their regular vaccines. Regular childhood vaccines prevent diseases such as polio, diphtheria, measles, pertussis, hepatitis B, and more. Protect your child from these preventable illnesses by keeping their routine vaccines up to date.
- Get your child caught up on their routine childhood vaccines, by booking an appointment with your health care provider or at one of HPEPH’s or KFL&APH’s routine immunization clinics.
- Stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations. Children and youth 6 months of age and over are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and youth 12 to 17 years of age are eligible for a booster dose six months after their second dose. Vaccinations continue to be the most effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the severity of illness associated with the virus. HPEPH and KFL&APH continue to offer COVID-19 vaccination clinics, which are posted on their websites.
As we learn to live with COVID-19, school communities will continue to support healthy and safe classrooms and reduce the spread of illness through enhanced cleaning, absence monitoring, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, and ventilation best practices. HPEPH and KFL&APH will support these efforts and continue to work with school communities to improve the health and well-being of students and staff through the provision of health promotion resources, curriculum supports, home-school communications resources, and in-person clinical services in schools.
Together with our school community partners, we look forward to welcoming local students back to school this September. As we learn to live with COVID-19, please continue to take reasonable and responsible steps to keep yourself, your family, your community, and our schools healthy and safe.
Dr. Ethan Toumishey
Acting Medical Officer of Health
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
Dr. Piotr Oglaza
Medical Officer of Health
KFL&A Public Health