The region’s top doctor says school is an essential service, which is why students are returning to class on Monday. 

Dr. Jim Chirico, Medical Officer of Health for the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, held a media conference on Friday afternoon to address the province’s extension of a northern shutdown. 

“I fully agree and recommended it,” said Dr. Chirico on the shutdown extension.

Dr. Chirico acknowledged that it seems strange to send kids back to school in person while everyone else is urged to stay home. 

“The benefits of in-person learning outweigh the risks of COVID-19 at this point,” he said, citing children’s’ mental, physical and social wellbeing as the benefits of in-person learning. 

There have been no COVID-19 outbreaks associated with schools in the region, which Dr. Chirico says played a factor in sending kids back. 

“Returning to school is considered a low risk,” he said. “We need to monitor the situation closely as circumstances change.”

Elementary and high school students in northern Ontario schools have been permitted to return to in-person learning despite the entire province now having to endure a shutdown until January 23.