It’s a big day for elementary, and secondary school students as they return to in-person learning Monday (January 17, 2022), after learning virtually since January 5, 2022.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon, Medical Officer of Health for the Northwestern Health Unit is in support of the government's decision to re-opening schools.

“School closures have been documented to have a negative effect on children’s health, so things such as physical activity get reduced, nutrition tends to worsen, and mental health tends to worsen with school closures,” Young Hoon said.

As kids return to the classrooms, she did mention that parents should continue to speak with their child or children about the importance of following health advice.

“Particularly important is the masking while indoors. Parents should be supplying their child with the appropriate type of masking, and showing their child how to wear to them, helping them practice how to use it, and encouraging them to wear it once indoors.”

Besides masking, Young Hoon added another protective measure children should be practicing is hand hygiene.

Young Hoon believes that when it comes to the school setting itself, the benefits of returning outweigh the risks. She ended by suggesting that parents speak with their children about COVID-19 if they fear returning to school.

The provincial government has made it as safe as possible for students to return to school.

Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce announced Wednesday (January 12, 2022), the distribution of N95 masks, rapid antigen test kits, and HEPA units to schools across the province to increase protection for students, and staff.

Rapid antigen test kits will be distributed to schools once students and staff return to protect against the ongoing Omicron variant. Each student and staff member will be given two tests to be used when feeling symptomatic.

The province will also be distributing over nine million non-fitted N95 masks for students and staff use.

Ontario will also be providing an additional 3,000 HEPA units across all publicly-funded schools in the province to improve ventilation units in facilities.

Lecce mentioned the province will be mobilizing school-based vaccination clinics to support greater uptake of children and youth that requires the consent of parents in Ontario.

Current vaccination rates among children aged 12 to 17 years old are 82 per cent having received two doses. Of children aged five to 11 years old, nearly 50 per cent have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.