Letter to parents and caregivers

January 28, 2021

Parents and caregivers,

Huron Perth Public Health recognizes that this is a stressful time for parents and caregivers who chose in-school learning for their school-aged children.  We know the announcement about schools in Huron Perth remaining closed for the time being was disappointing for many.

I realize this is not the ideal situation for many parents and caregivers so as we anticipate the re-opening of schools, please take advantage of support that may be available to you and your family. Your children’s school or school board may be able to provide additional support for your children’s learning or wellbeing.  211 is also an excellent resource for connecting people to community services.

In terms of a return to in-school learning, decisions about schools are made at the provincial level, by the Ministry of Education, and in consultation with Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health.  We haven’t received any specific information about whether the Ministry of Education wants to see COVID-19 rates below a certain level for in-person learning to resume. HPPH does not know of a potential return-to-school date, at this time.

We share your concerns about the impact of unanticipated remote learning, and the effect on students’ learning, social development, and mental wellbeing.  We agree that school is where kids should be and while remote learning is a safe, supportive method of learning, we too would like to see families who chose in-person learning to get back to in-person learning as soon as possible. 

Since the start of the pandemic about 12% of our cases in Huron Perth have been in the 0-19 age group. While children and youth who are infected with COVID-19 tend to have less severe illness, we don’t know what the long-term effects of the virus are and if there may be further consequences that we haven’t learned about yet. We all want to keep rates as low as possible.

In the fall, when rates of COVID-19 in Huron Perth were lower, there were relatively few cases of COVID-19 that were identified as school-related exposures, and relatively few cohorts that were identified as High Risk Contacts that were dismissed and isolated for 14 days, and only 2 school outbreaks (where transmission occurred in the school setting).  We know that public health measures such as screening, physical distancing and hand hygiene work!

However, when rates of COVID-19 transmission are high, as they are now in Huron Perth, the risk of school-related exposures and school –related transmission increases.  Since the Christmas break there have been about 43 cases in school-aged kids and school staff in Huron Perth. The isolation and follow-up of 43 school-related cases and all their cohorts would have a significant impact on schools and on families.

It is an encouraging sign that case data in the province and in Huron Perth may be starting to show a decrease. This means that public health measures are working and I encourage you to continue staying home as often as possible, maintaining distance from others, wearing a face covering and washing hands frequently. 

As part of a safe return for students and staff, the Ministry of Education is mandating the following increased safety measures for when students return to school:

  • New masking requirements for students in Grades 1 - 3 and new requirements to wear masks outdoors when a physical distance of 2m cannot be maintained.
  • Enhanced screening protocols (confirmation of self-screening for all secondary students prior to or upon arrival to school).
  • Increased enforcement to avoid congregating of students before and after school.
  • Targeted testing for eligible schools.
  • Mandatory refresher training for all students on their first day back to school.

Until then, the best thing we can do is continue to follow all public health measures to bring our community rates down, including those outlined in the current state of emergency and stay-at-home order that the Province of Ontario has in place. This will help safeguard our vulnerable populations (e.g. those in long-term care and retirement homes), protect the capacity of our healthcare system, and help our schools succeed in opening and staying open. Controlled rates of community transmission together with public health measures in schools will create the conditions to allow our schools to open safely.

Thank you for continuing to follow public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.



Dr. Miriam Klassen, Medical Officer of Health

Huron Perth Public Health