Schools in 7 southern Ontario regions will reopen Monday, rest will remain closed
TORONTO -- The Ontario government has announced that students in seven public health units will be returning to the classroom on Monday, but online learning will remain in place for the rest of southern Ontario schools until further notice.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Ministry of Education confirmed that students in the following public health units will resume in-class learning on Jan. 25:
• Grey Bruce Health Unit
• Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit
• Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit
• Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Health Unit
• Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
• Peterborough Public Health
• Renfrew County and District Health Unit
Some school boards that span across multiple public health units may have some schools that resume in-person learning on Jan. 25 and others that will continue to teach virtually, the government said.
No information was provided regarding the return dates for students in the 15 other southern Ontario public health units not listed above.
Parents in the regions of Toronto, Peel, York, Windsor-Essex and Hamilton were previously told their children would not be returning to the classroom until at least Feb. 10, while schools in northern Ontario reopened for in-person instruction on Jan. 11.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that getting students back into class is the government’s top priority, and that more than 100,000 kids will be returning to in-person learning on Monday.
“According to Ontario’s chief medical officer of health and leading medical and scientific experts, including the Hospital for Sick Children, Ontario’s schools are safe places for learning,” he said.
“To ensure schools remain safe, the government is introducing additional measures including province-wide targeted asymptomatic testing, enhanced screening, mandatory masking for students in Grades 1-3."
Lecce also said that masks will be worn outdoors when physical distancing isn’t possible.
Between mid-September and Dec. 21, the province reported 5,103 cases of COVID-19 in students and 1,094 cases among school staff. At least 1,095 additional cases of the novel coronavirus were logged in “individuals not identified,” which could include parents or family members of school-related cases.
At least one education worker died after contracting the disease.
Nine-hundred and seventy-six of Ontario’s 4,828 schools reported a case of COVID-19 within that four-month period.
Earlier this month, when the government announced an extended closure of schools in southern Ontario, the province’s chief medical officer of health said they were trying to find the “right balance” in order to ensure that once schools open—they stay open.
“Our methods that we put in place before in the fall, in my mind, have to be enhanced especially around areas of surveillance and monitoring and promptness and readiness. These aren’t simple things where you turn a switch on. You have to put a lot of things in place and we are working on that at this time.”
The government did not go into detail about what enhanced measures they would like to see in schools before they reopened to the public.
Ontario has allocated about $840 million to reduce class sizes, increase ventilation, hire more custodians and set up public health nurses at schools.
The government also accepted $381 million from the federal government.