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Durham students below provincial average for vaccinations

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express

Durham students are falling below the provincial average for those who have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to DDSB Director of Education Norah Marsh, she noted at a recent standing committee meeting that about five per cent of Durham students have received the first vaccination, while the provincial average is standing at about 34 per cent.

“We do know that over the course of the next two weeks, vaccinations are going to increase [for students ages 12 to 17],” says Marsh. “We’re very optimistic that by early July, the vast majority of our youth will have had access to that first vaccination.”

Additionally, Marsh says that approximately 43 per cent of educators across the province have received their first dose of the vaccine.

As for the new Delta variant, Marsh says one vaccination is not as effective as it has been with other variants thus far and highlights that the second vaccination is very important in preventing a fourth wave dominated by the Delta variant.

However, Marsh says she’s optimistic in terms of summer and the rollout of the second vaccination for education staff and students.

“The government has identified prioritization for both those groups,” she says.

With less than three weeks to go in the current school year, Marsh says everyone feels the disappointment of not being able to return to in-person learning.

“We recognize that remote learning is pressure-packed from the point of view that it’s an entirely different form of teaching and learning – in a virtual mode,” she says, adding compounding the challenge is the many people who are trying to work full-time from home while also giving children the support and attention they need to engage in remote learning.

“That’s the reality for many of our parents, and for many of our staff who are trying to do the engagement work for our students through remote learning,” says Marsh.

“All of this has been far from ideal, but I think our school communities have continued to do their best to create opportunities of care and of connection for our students during this period of time, and to continue to engage them despite the challenges.”

Moving forward to the start of the next school year in September, Marsh says planning as already begun.

“We are moving forward in terms of planning for a safe return in September,” she says, noting that, due to trustee advocacy, more funding was provided by the province for the reopening in September.

She adds that more information will be communicated to families in early August in terms of what the return to school will look like, as well as final registration for families to choose between either virtual or in-person learning for next year.