The Manitoba Pediatric Society wants the province to reopen schools before the school year is over — unless officials can demonstrate that children are contributing to the spread of the community to justify continued closures.
“June should not be a write-off,” says Dr. Marni Hanna, president of the provincial association.
“It’s still worth getting kids back to school, if only for a few weeks in June.”
Ideally, all primary and secondary school students should be invited back to their classrooms, Hanna said, but at the very least she wants primary school students to have the chance to see their classmates and teachers before the summer.
Hanna told the Free Press that pediatricians across the province have seen depression, anxiety and eating disorders in young people during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when schools are closed and students are isolated from their social networks.
Students with developmental disabilities have regressed without in-person support, she said.
In a letter written to ministers, public health officials and senior doctors in mid-May, Hanna wrote that pediatricians are “extremely concerned” about classroom learning being interrupted during the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We cannot allow our fears and apprehensions to dictate policies that end up harming (children) more than COVID ever could,” she wrote in the letter, dated May 14, but released to the public late last week. released.
Hanna noted that school is a place to learn, but for some students it is also a haven from family quarrels, emotional or physical abuse, or a place to get a healthy meal to start the school day.
Citing the “unintended consequences” of the pandemic, and research showing that children are less prone to spreading the new coronavirus and become seriously ill from it, and the effectiveness of mitigation measures in schools, the association has called on the province to to lift the suspension.
At present, 393 schools are fully in distance learning mode.
County officials originally shut down classroom learning in Winnipeg and Brandon on May 10 to this week. The closures have been extended through the week of June 7 and expanded to include schools in Dauphin and the Red River Valley and Garden Valley school divisions.
The Pediatric Association wants the county to offer and promote vaccination for all educators, promote immunization in families, and consider immediately resuming extracurricular activities.
“There needs to be more transparency about the degree of dispersion coming from schools to justify this, because in the past, at least school transmission was not a major source of dispersion and it was also part of the reason why teachers are not considered to be a high degree of dispersion. of dispersion were considered. priority group to get their vaccines,” Hanna added during a phone interview Monday.
In a prepared statement, Education Secretary Cliff Cullen said he agrees that students learn best in the classroom.
“The more we follow public health measures and get the vaccine into the arms of Manitobans, the sooner we can get kids back to school.”
Last week, the minister indicated that he hopes that at least the youngest students in Manitoba will be able to finish the school year in class.
In the two weeks leading up to May 25, there were 482 COVID-19 cases associated with schools.
Exposure in classrooms has skyrocketed during the latest wave; in recent weeks, the number of registered cases has peaked at over 700 over a two-week period.