School remains out in C-K…for now

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School boards, top doc, frustrated by decision to keep schools closed

By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative

The Ontario government’s decision to keep Chatham-Kent off the list of areas where schools that can open next week has left the local school boards and top doc surprised.

On Thursday, Stephen Lecce, minister of education, announced that 280,000 students in four public health regions will return to class on Feb. 1.

Among the list are the boards that fall under the Middlesex-London Health Unit and Southwestern Public Health (Oxford- Elgin-St. Thomas).

St. Clair Catholic School Board and Lambton-Kent District School Board (LKDSB) were left off the list for both their Sarnia-Lambton and Chatham-Kent schools.

As of Thursday morning, Middlesex-London reported 1,617 active cases of COVID-19, which is roughly 400 cases per 100,000 people. Southwestern Public Health (Oxford- Elgin-St. Thomas) reported 183 active cases, roughly 93 cases per 100,000 residents.

Chatham-Kent currently has a total of 113 active cases, and Sarnia-Lambton sits at 104 active cases, for populations just over 100,000 people.

Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health, said he was surprised the municipality, and its neighbouring health unit, were not put on the list.

“This is a provincially determined decision. And all I can say it’s most likely a decision that is partly made on the basis of regional analysis numbers, as opposed to simply what’s going on in Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton. So that that’s all I can really add right now,” Colby said regarding the situation.

The Ministry of Education made its decision based on the advice of Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

“And that’s all we’ve been told as well, that we will not be among the group that’s going back,” said Deb Crawford, director of education for St. Clair Catholic School Board.

John Howitt, director of education, LKDSB, added that he is critical of the ministry for not reaching out to the local medical officers of health for input on whether or not schools should open.

As it stands, both elementary and secondary students are set to return to class on Feb. 11.

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