Letter to the Community from Dr. Nicola Mercer on the return to in-person learning

January 14, 2022

Parents and Caregivers,

In-person learning is important, not just for our children, but for their families and the broader community. When children cannot attend school, there are serious and long-lasting impacts on their mental health, wellbeing and academic progress. A world-class education delivered in a safe environment by caring teachers and supported by dedicated staff is an important pillar of our region’s future.

With the Province’s announcement that schools will reopen to in-person learning this coming Monday, we must carefully consider the state of the pandemic and its risk to schools. The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is highly transmissible, driving a troubling surge in cases and putting significant pressure on many of our systems and supports. If we look at the spread of Omicron in other countries, it will likely be several weeks at least before the situation begins to improve in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.

For in-person learning to resume and be successful, we must protect schools against the spread of the Omicron variant. Schools, school boards and their partners across the region have made many changes to make schools as safe as possible. But it will take all of us working together as a community to drive down the levels of COVID-19 locally to make schools safer. The best way to do that is to get vaccinated (including a booster when you are eligible) and continue to follow public health measures.

The return to in-person learning will affect every child and family differently. Whether you and your family choose to attend, or not to attend, in-person classes, please use trusted sources to help guide your decision.

Many families in our community rely on in-person learning to support their economic and social wellbeing. Many children depend on in-person learning for reasons of food security, safety and many other benefits beyond what is contained in their lessons. For this reason, I believe that the benefits of reopening in-person learning ultimately outweigh the short-term risks.

I know we can meet this moment as a community. We must continue to support one another and continue the fight against this pandemic. We must do all we can to safeguard the education of our children, the health of our region and our future together.

Please stay safe and stay well,

Dr.  Nicola Mercer, MD, MBA, MPH, FRCPC

Medical Officer of Health and CEO