OTTAWA -- One of Ontario's top doctors is suggesting kids could be going back to school in the province before the end of the school year.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, the medical officer of health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit and the chair of the Council of Medical Officers of Health, told Newstalk 580 CFRA's "Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts" on Tuesday that he's spoken with Premier Doug Ford about the return to class.

"He said that they were going to be looking at it this week. They had received our letter, they had received other letters, and they were going to look at it over the weekend and make some kind of announcement this week," Roumeliotis said.

"I'm not ruling out schools coming back May 31."

The calls to reopen schools in Ontario for in-person learning have been growing louder since the province announced its latest reopening plan, which did not include schools.

Last week, CHEO and several other children's hospitals and child health advocates launched a campaign to raise awareness about what they called a mental health emergency among kids who have been out of school since the April break.

Roumeliotis said he fully supports returning students to classrooms, where appropriate.

"People say, 'The school year's almost over. Why are you doing that?' Well, you're giving everybody a glimmer of hope," he said. "You're giving people a bit of a break. They'll go for three, four weeks, they'll see their friends, clean out their desks, go home and then we start fresh in the new (school) year. I think this is just the start of their mental health rehabilitation."

Roumeliotis suspects the province will announce a regional plan for returning students to school.

"I don't think it'll be appropriate that the GTA does it, but I think the rest of the province will be able to do that," he said. "I think we'll get an announcement imminently."

Ford said last week that he was concerned about a projected increase of up to 11 per cent in COVID-19 case counts when asked about reopening schools.

"I want to go back, I hate it online," said Grade 7 student Emily Farley Ratcliffe who hopes she'll be able to finish the school year in-person with her classmates.

The potential return to in-person learning plan won't work for all students though, including her sister Hannah who is in high school.

"One class one week and then it flips and it again so it wouldn't even make sense," Hannah said.

"I think it would be great for them to have, even if it's just three weeks, three weeks back at school, with their friends in person to finish out the year," said their mom Laura. "I think high schoolers it would be incredibly challenging to go back because they have a totally different system virtually."

"Right now the mental health risk I'm seeing… I feel that the benefits of the kids going back to school outweigh the risk in terms of COVID," said mom of three Silvia Holtrop.

"Students, at least in my experience, have kind of resigned that this year is kind of a wash and…they're looking to the future and looking to get vaccinated, looking to have a good summer and so I don't think the reward is worth the potential risks involved," said teacher and parent Erica Potter.

"I'm at a fairly new school and even still the ventilation is spotty at best, the air conditioner works, sometimes it doesn’t and even in my new school, my classroom windows don't open so there are a lot of things that need to be considered."

Scientists advising the government released projections last Thursday that showed a six to 11 per cent increase in case counts was possible if schools were to reopen June 2; however, the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table said, "this may be manageable."

With concerns over mental health and safety, those watching the numbers say there is middle ground.

"We're either talking about full reopening, full closure why not talk about this little grey area which Ottawa is in right now. You may be able to get students back in school in Ottawa for maybe three or four weeks," said COVID-19 biostatistician Ryan Imgrund. "They're not safe enough to fully open but at the exact same time too they do have case counts low enough that I think schools should be able return in some form."

Elementary and secondary school students have already returned to in-person learning in Quebec, and students in most of Alberta returned to class on Tuesday. 

--With files from The Canadian Press.