Open Ontario schools and put our children first — here’s why

Feature photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash.

Yesterday, Ontario announced the closure of schools for in-person learning starting next week indefinitely. This comes after Ontario Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, wrote to parents telling them that schools would remain open after the April break.

The Ontario Liberals are even calling for the dismissal of Lecce, after this sudden change of plans.

“Just yesterday Minister Lecce wrote to parents telling them that all publicly funded schools would remain open after the April Break. One day later, Doug Ford is closing them for weeks. The in-fighting between Doug Ford and his education minister is putting our children and education workers at risk, and Lecce should be fired for it,” said the press release.

They continue the letter by saying Doug Ford should adopt the Ontario Liberal plan, with capping class sizes to 15, investing in “urgent repairs to ventilation in classrooms, and vaccinating all education workers over the April Break.”

The release finishes by saying;

“It’s time to end Doug Ford’s chaos once and for all by making schools safe.”

Lecce then changed his tune yesterday after a cabinet meeting about school closures. — Probably in fear of his job as was the case for other MPPs like Roman Baber, Randy Hillier and Belinda Karahalios — except they stuck to their guns.

But schools are safe for children and should be open, here’s why;

Two deaths in Ontarians under the age of 20

Out of all Ontarians aged 20 or younger, only two have died from COVID-19. The first being a girl under the age of 10, who passed away from unrelated health complications after testing positive. The second is unclear as it wasn’t as heavily reported on as the first.

In all of Canada, the number of deaths isn’t that much greater with a total of seven under the age of 19. (As of April 9, 2021). As some doctors are now willing to say on the record – Influenza is more dangerous to children than COVID.

Total deaths in Canada from COVID-19 as of April 9, 2021. SOURCE: https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/epidemiological-summary-covid-19-cases.html

ICU & Hospital admissions versus total cases (last 30 days)

In the last 30 days, the number of active hospitalizations (including those in the ICU) in Ontario compared to active cases isn’t very high with less than five per cent of those with a case ending up hospitalized (including those in the ICU). This is a total for all age groups (since these statistics haven’t been segregated by age).

Active hospitalizations and ICU admissions in Ontario as of April 12, 2021. SOURCE: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/data/hospitalizations

When you look at the total number of deaths in Ontario versus the number of cases — it’s a 1.935 per cent mortality rate. In Canada, that number is 2.25 per cent.

With that we shouldn’t forget that Ontario’s death count has included people who didn’t die of COVID-19. But that exact number is unknown. This also doesn’t account for seroprevalance data that suggests the infection fatality rate or IFR of Covid may be much lower than the case fatality rate of 1.935 per cent in Ontario.

According to a study titled “Estimating the Global Infection Fatality Rate of COVID-19” the “IFR is the primary metric upon which decisions have been based, and estimates range from 0.1% to over 3%.”

Cases resolved VS total cases (under 20)

In all cases of those under 20, a total of 89.07 per cent have been resolved. (51,751 resolved, 58,096 total and 6,343 active as of April 12, 2021).

Total cases, (active, resolved and deaths) in Ontario as of April 12, 2021. SOURCE: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/data#spikes

99 per cent of Ontario students and staff had no current case prior to April break

The total number of active cases under 20 is 6,343. But according to the Ontario government’s press release on school closures — over 99 per cent of students and over 98 per cent of staff haven’t reported a case since September 2020.

“Prior to April break, more than 99 per cent of students and staff did not have a current case of COVID-19. Since September, 99.2 per cent of students and 98.6 per cent of staff never reported a COVID-19 case,” reads the April 12th press release.

Strangely enough, this statement has been tucked right at the bottom of that very press release. Perhaps something they didn’t want people to notice?

Not all students excel at online learning

From my experience with online learning in high school, I would personally say that online learning is not for everyone. But not just that, even if you do well at online learning, it doesn’t mean you’re retaining what you’ve been taught.

I once spoke with an elementary school French teacher while at work. We briefly talked about how she didn’t like the masks while teaching the French language as students learn better when they can see the mouth movements and tongue rolls.

She also told me that when reviewing subject matter from the previous year of online learning, the students either didn’t remember or struggled to remember what they had learnt.

According to an Education Week article by Susanna Loeb, not all students learn as well online — even though the content and structure of classes are the same.

“In the online setting, students may have more distractions and less oversight, which can reduce their motivation.”

They do state however that online learning can have its advantages, for example; Students can take classes online that their schools don’t offer, they can take summer courses to get ahead or make up a lost credit. “So,  almost certainly, online classes sometimes benefit students.”

However, in a study by the American Institutes for Research and the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, it was determined that online learning for subjects like math result in lower scores.

Jessica Heppen and colleagues at the American Institutes for Research and the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research randomly assigned students who had failed second semester Algebra to either face-to-face or online credit recovery courses over the summer. Students’ credit-recovery success rates and algebra test scores were lower in the online setting. Students assigned to the online option also rated their class as more difficult than did their peers assigned to the face-to-face option.”

“Students’ credit-recovery success rates and algebra test scores were lower in the online setting. Students assigned to the online option also rated their class as more difficult than did their peers assigned to the face-to-face option.”

Jessica Heppen and Colleagues

Even more studies confirmed this notion.

“Most of the research on online courses for K-12 students has used large-scale administrative data, looking at otherwise similar students in the two settings. One of these studies, by June Ahn of New York University and Andrew McEachin of the RAND Corp., examined Ohio charter schools; I did another with colleagues looking at Florida public school coursework. Both studies found evidence that online course-taking was less effective,” reads the Education Week article by Loeb.

She also writes that being in person with teachers and other students “creates social pressures and benefits that can help motivate students to engage.”

“Some students do as well in online courses as in in-person courses, some may actually do better, but, on average, students do worse in the online setting, and this is particularly true for students with weaker academic backgrounds.”

Viral load in children 16 times lower than someone over 80

According to an article from the Daily Mail UK, data from public health officials in the Netherlands revealed that people over the age of 80 have a viral load 16 times bigger than children under the age of 12.

“Rapid antigen tests, like ones suggested for use in schools and airports, are also likely to be less accurate for children than adults, due to this smaller load, the researchers say.”

More than a quarter of a million people in northern Holland were tested between Jan. 1, 2020 and Dec. 1, 2020. Of those tests, 211,933 were carried out by a qualified healthcare professional, with a viral load being available for 18,290 of the tests. They were also processed by the same regional lab in the Netherlands to ensure tests were analyzed equally.

“Our data present a clear relation between age and SARS-CoV-2 viral load, with children (less than 12 years) showing lower viral loads independent of sex and symptom duration.’

Children’s mental health during lockdowns, COVID

According to a SickKids study, upwards of 70 per cent of children experienced deterioration of mental health in the first wave.

“Depending on the age group, 67-70% of children/adolescents experienced deterioration in at least one mental health domain; however, 19-31% of children/adolescents experienced improvement in at least one domain. Children/adolescents without and with psychiatric diagnoses tended to experience deterioration during the first wave of COVID-19”

The study was conducted with a total of 1,013 parents with children raging from 6-18 years old and 385 self reporting children/adolescents aged 10-18.

The study also found changes in mental health across six domains: depression, anxiety, irritability, attention, hyperactivity and obsessions/compulsions.

” Rates of deterioration were higher in those with a pre-exiting diagnosis. The rate of deterioration was variable across different age groups and pre-existing psychiatric diagnostic groups: depression 37-56%, anxiety 31-50%, irritability 40-66%, attention 40-56%, hyperactivity 23-56%, obsessions/compulsions 13-30%.”

Suicide attempts tripled over a 4-month period under COVID-19

The McMaster Children’s Hospital says youth admitted for medical support after a suicide attempt has tripled over a four-month period, compared to the year prior.

Signs are evident and are easy to see in children/youth struggling with mental health. These signs can be changes in eating, sleeping and other behaviours that last for a number of days or even weeks.

“Changes in behaviour can include expressions of distress, disconnecting from loved ones, or acting out behaviours. Caregivers are encouraged to reach out for professional help for their children or for themselves as parents.”

Dr. Paulo Pires, psychologist and clinical director of Child & Youth Mental Health Outpatient Services. (Quote from a CBC article).

Kids Help Phone lines more than double in 2020 compared to year prior

According to The Star, in 2019, the hotline received 1.9 million calls, texts and clicks on their online resources for help. With the ongoing COVID situation from 2020, the number has more than doubled to over 4 million.

Of those 4 million times, 300,000 were one-on-one calls or texts — a 51 per cent increase from what they saw in 2019.

The numbers The Star listed in their article even show the ages of those reaching out.

From The Star’s Article.

Over 300 doctors and health professionals urged Lecce not to close schools

According to Our Windsor, 309 doctors and health professionals urged the Ontario Minister of Education not to close schools after the April break.

The letter was sent out to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Lecce.

“We respectfully maintain that schools must remain open for the duration of this academic year, and in the future, regardless of community rates of SARS-CoV-2,” the document reads.

The letter, which was written March 28th, and was sent on March 30, was signed by 235 physicians and 74 allied health professionals within 24 hours.

“The letter notes that children who are infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus are commonly asymptomatic, or have mild symptoms; that schools have a low likelihood of transmission; and that closing schools negatively impacts the mental health and well-being of children.”

Our Windsor

Now an Ontario parent has started a new legal challenge against school closures saying that public protests and contacting their local MPP have done nothing to change the situation.

Hopefully, things do change and school boards, teachers parents and politicians alike will put their differences aside to put the children of Ontario first. They are the future of this province and this nation.

It’s time we put the children first — it’s time for change.

@BroderickVisser via Twitter.


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