Ontario Needs to Reconsider Pandemic School Closure Policy
Think-tank urges province to consider key questions before the next crisis hits
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2022
OTTAWA, ON – Ontario needs a better process for deciding school system closures during pandemics or other crises. Clearly, the framework it used through two years of COVID-19 didn't work for students, parents, schools, or teachers. A new discussion paper from think-tank Cardus, Assessing Ontario’s Pandemic School Closures and What Students Need, highlights the extensive, unintended consequences of the province’s existing school closure policy:
- A six-fold increase in students missing more than half their classes.
- Unreported learning loss because of the halt of student testing in 2020-21.
- Reports of extreme anxiety and stress among students.
- Loss of stability, routine, food security, and safety for vulnerable and marginalized students.
- Loss of extracurricular activities, social relationships, and major milestones.
As governments and public health officials have reminded Ontarians repeatedly, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. The province may yet decide to bring back public health measures later in the year or in response to a new crisis. This is why Ontario needs to consider three things before it has to face a school closure decision again:
- Should in-person learning be an essential service?
- How can parents and guardians play a meaningful role in educational decision-making?
- Should Ontario move toward smaller-scale, more local educational decision-making and governance?
“It’s time for Ontarians to consider whether schools should be designated an essential service, which would make in-person learning a high priority, even during crises,” says Joanna DeJong VanHof, a Cardus researcher, previous educational leader, and author of the new discussion paper. “And before the next crisis hits, governments also need to figure out how to meaningfully consult parents in educational decision-making, and whether it’s time for more community-focused educational governance.”
Assessing Ontario’s Pandemic School Closures and What Students Need is freely available online.
Cardus – Director of Communications
Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society’s institutions can work together for the common good.
Cardus is a non-partisan, not-for-profit public policy think tank focused on the following areas: education, family, work & economics, communities, end-of-life care, and religious freedom. It conducts independent and original research, produces several periodicals, and regularly stages events with Senior Fellows and interested constituents across Canada and the U.S.