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Canadian Paediatric Society supports a safe return to school for Canada’s children and youth

Jun 25, 2020

OTTAWA – As the period of school closures extends into months, the immediate and short-term effects of isolation on children and youth are surfacing while the potential for long-term physical, emotional, development and academic effects grows. It is critical that all stakeholders come together now to ensure a safe return to the classroom in September.

Children and youth with special needs, from low-income households, or for whom home is not a safe place, are facing some of the most significant consequences of school closures.

“Schools are more than places of learning,” said Dr. Karen Leis, Chair of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s Action Committee for Children and Teens. “They provide important mental health supports, nutritious food and – for some children – a refuge.”

While requirements will vary between regions, the CPS believes that a safe return to school can be facilitated by ensuring that:

  • Policy development includes meaningful and multi-point consultation with experts in child and adolescent development in addition to public health and infectious disease specialists, reflecting the knowledge and voices of paediatricians, provincial and territorial medical associations, children’s healthcare centres, psychologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
  • Policies and protocols are designed in consultation with teachers, school administrators, parents and youth. Ministries must also ensure that the resources necessary to support teachers and administrators responsible for implementing back-to-school policies are provided.
  • Decisions responsibly balance public health risks with the harms of social isolation and the need for all children and youth to be able to play and interact with each other in ways that support healthy emotional and psychological development.
  • Policies reflect the unique circumstances of each region, recognizing that the risk of outbreak can vary significantly between school districts and will likely fluctuate until a vaccine becomes widely available.

“We can’t overlook the negative consequences of long-term school closures on children and youth,” said Dr. Leis, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Saskatchewan. “Now is the time to ensure a safe return to school in the fall.”

The full letter, sent to provincial and territorial Ministries of Education, can be accessed here.

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Last updated: Jun 25, 2020

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