West Nipissing students won’t be returning to classrooms this year, after the Ontario government announced remote learning would continue for the duration of the 2020-21 school year on June 2.
The North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit expressed disappointment with the announcement at their weekly press conference on June 3.
“We felt that the risks were manageable and that the benefits outweighed the risks, that’s why we recommended to have in-person learning,” said Dr. Jim Chirico, Medical Officer of Health. “We saw significant impact on the mental, social and physical well-being of kids; we saw how it affected them. We were being alerted – not only by schools but by primary care – as to the increase in mental health issues that were occurring. We felt that we had worked really successfully with school boards up and to this point and we were able to prevent outbreaks within schools and transmission has been low in our district; that is one of the biggest contributors to school outbreaks. So, we managed – because of the sacrifice and hard work of everybody in our communities – to keep our numbers low and we felt that it was reasonable to recommend to reopen schools as soon as possible.”
Premier Doug Ford noted during his press conference that he still wanted to see outdoor graduation ceremonies this month. However, most local secondary schools are opting for drive-by graduations for their Grade 12 students.
Franco-Cité’s plans for a drive-thru graduation are already in place: they requested the municipality close off Main St. to southbound traffic on June 28-29, so they could hold their ceremony. Council agreed to close the street off entirely on those days to only residential traffic and emergency services.
Northern Secondary School hasn’t finalised their plans for Grade 12 students yet, but they are looking at a drive by graduation similar to last year. ESPNO was not available to share its plans.
Meanwhile, the Health Unit says their focus will now shift to getting as many people immunized as possible before the start of the next school year, to ensure the lowest possible risk for students.