Local educators are feeling confident as students and staff prepare to return to in-person learning on Monday. 

Scott Johnson, director of education with the St Clair Catholic District School Board says extra precautions put in place, including higher quality masks for teachers and students and added HEPA filters in classrooms, make schools safer than they would have been two weeks ago.  

“I would say that each time we’ve come back, we’ve come back safer than we were the previous time and each time we’ve come back we’ve had less cases in schools than we had originally feared,” Johnson says.

He adds new screening for staff and students will clarify for families when kids can go to school, or how long any potential periods of isolation should be.

Meantime, the head of the Lambton Kent District School Board is encouraging everyone to to change their way of thinking about the pandemic. 

Director of Education John Howitt understands many parents may be feeling anxious about sending kids back to the classroom, but says the Omicron variant can’t be tackled with the same mindset as before. 

“I would caution us all to be applying appropriate thinking to the variant and the differences in this variant to some of the previous contexts that we’ve been exposed to,” Howitt says. “At some point here the game is going to change, and I think we’re on the cusp of that.”

Medical Officer Dr. David Colby says while previous waves were managed through a strategy of containment, Omicron is a game changer. 

“This virus is sneaky and it changes faster than a chameleon, and we have to change too in order to meet this challenge,” Colby says. “There is a mental and social and intellectual cost to keeping kids out of school, and that has to be balanced against whatever risks there are, small as they may be, by school attendance.”