Vaccinations to start for Windsor-Essex students this month, no decision on return to classroom
WINDSOR, ONT. -- The Ontario government said remote learning will continue for students across the province, including in Windsor-Essex, until further notice as the province works to begin vaccinating 12 to 17 year olds.
Premier Doug Ford and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said Thursday there is no decision yet on when schools can reopen to in-person learning.
“We're going to have to have some more discussions, both with our public health units with the Ministry of Education to determine when's the best time, right time, because our schools were safe, and we want them to open and stay open because it feels very important to have our children back in the schools, and to maintain the safety record we've had up to now, and we want to do that,” said Williams.
Windsor-Essex County Health Unit CEO Theresa Marentette said they haven’t heard from the province on when schools can reopen to students.
“I know that’s probably a question everyone is wondering about.” says Marentette. “We just know the direction for our health unit is to have a plan for administering the vaccine for those 12 to 17 year-olds, which are school-age children.”
The plan to rollout the vaccine to students over 12 years old is already in the works.
“We’ve been asked to coordinate locally with our locally school boards,” said Marentette.
In Windsor-Essex she said there’s probably about 3,500 to 4,000 students in each age cohort.
“We’re probably be looking at close to 24,000 that would be eligible for the vaccine based on that age criteria,” said Marentette.
The province says beginning the week of May 31, youth between 12 and 17 and their family members who have not received a vaccine will be eligible to book an appointment to receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, including at special dedicated youth and family clinics throughout the weeks of June 14 and 21.
“Expanding vaccines to youth 12 and up will bring us one step closer to normalcy for our students,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “We are focused on delivering a safe, stable, and well-resourced learning experience with an additional $1.6-billion in resources to protect students and school communities in the 2021-22 school year.”
The province said they will work with public health units to offer both doses of vaccine to youth aged 12 to 17 by the end of August, in collaboration with school boards and other partners.
“LET TEACHERS DO THEIR JOBS”
President of the Greater Essex Teachers Federation Mario Spagnuolo said he thinks it’s unfortunate public health has taken this line.
“I think we need to let public health do their job, let teachers do their jobs,” said Spagnuolo. “If the premier really wants to consult with us, we’ll be at the table but he’s never really invited us to the table to consult.”
Ford said some doctors say that schools could reopen in June, but he needs the labor leaders to communicate with the doctors.
“We have the teachers union that wants to potentially put an injunction against opening the schools, I just need the labor leaders, sit down with docs and come up with a solution,” said Ford.
Spagnuolo said Ford hasn’t asked for the union’s opinion.
“So now to say today, that there’s no consensus, honestly, that was a shocking comment because I’m not sure he was ever looking for consensus, cause he’s never asked for our opinion.”
President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation District 9 Erin Roy said it’s political spin.
“Trying to shift the blame away from his governments’ decisions,” said Roy. “The message has been clear all along, as long as the schools are safe to do so, the schools should be open because in-person learning is the best form of learning.”
Roy said local medial officers of health are very capable of making those decisions when they need to be made.
“Windsor-Essex has done a great job of vaccinations,” said Roy. “I feel like we’ve kept our community spread low, and if Dr. Ahmed was comfortable I think that we would certainly, I hear from my members they want to be back in school.”