OACAS is pleased to see the Government of Ontario’s emphasis on in-person learning as part of its back-to-school plan for September 2021.
The mental health and well-being of children and youth are critically important. Preliminary findings from SickKids show that the pandemic has had significant and sustained impacts on the mental health and well-being of children and, in particular, adolescents. As such, OACAS supports measures and where necessary, investments, that will ensure the best recovery possible for young people across Ontario. We are glad to see that vaccinated individuals will not be subject to the same isolation requirements as unvaccinated individuals, and that emphasis is being placed on ensuring young people have access to sports, physical activity, and other extracurriculars.
Schools are not just places of learning. They also offer children and youth key opportunities for physical activity, nutrition, and sometimes safety. The pandemic created additional stresses for families, including for caregivers balancing work and virtual school. In-person learning can be a mitigating factor for families that may be struggling. Children and youth from marginalized communities and those with special needs have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We support a back-to-school plan that ensures equitable access to resources and supports so that all young people are able to return to in-person learning if that is their choice. This includes children and youth in the care of the child welfare system who rely on school for critical connections and supports.
OACAS also supports the use of COVID-19 vaccinations as an effective tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect children and youth, in particular those who are not eligible for a vaccine. We have developed a series of resources to support access to accurate and credible information about the COVID-19 vaccines. Find them at oacas.org/EveryShotCounts.
OACAS is actively engaging with stakeholders, including at the provincial Children’s COVID-19 Vaccine Table, to ensure the voice of child welfare is heard in vaccine planning and post-pandemic recovery efforts, including back-to-school planning.