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Ontario plans delayed return to classroom in an effort to limit COVID-19 spread

Area schools are expected to return to in-person learning later than originally planned, in support of the Government of Ontario’s broader efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“While transmission in schools remains low, all publicly funded and private elementary and secondary schools are to move to teacher-led remote learning when students return from the winter break on January 4, 2021,” reads a statement issued Monday (Dec. 21) as part of the Province’s latest announcement regarding the virus.

Schools located in the following Public Health Unit regions are currently expected to resume in-person instruction on January 11, 2021 for both elementary and secondary students:

  • The District of Algoma Health Unit
  • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit
  • Northwestern Health Unit
  • Porcupine Health Unit
  • Sudbury and District Health Unit
  • Thunder Bay District Health Unit
  • Timiskaming Health Unit

For schools in all other Public Health Unit regions, elementary school students are planned to be able to return to in-person learning on Jan. 11, while secondary school students will continue learning remotely until Jan. 25, at which point they may resume in-person learning.

During this period, the Province says child care centres, authorized recreational and skill building programs and home-based child care services will remain open. However, from Jan. 4 to 8, when elementary students move to remote learning, before and after school programs will be closed and emergency child care for health care and frontline workers will be provided.

“As part of the government’s efforts to protect the most vulnerable, boards will be required to make provisions for continued in-person support for students with special education needs who cannot be accommodated through remote learning for whom remote learning is challenging,” reads the provincial statement.

Maintaining his belief that schools are not a source of rising community transmission, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, says schools can play an important part of the solution.

“During this period, students will pivot to teacher-led online learning, with child care provided for our frontline workers,” said Minister Lecce.

“We are taking proactive and preventative action to protect schools following the holiday break to ensure kids can continue in-class learning — something we believe is so important — for the remainder of the year.”

According to the Province, as of Dec. 18 approximately 99.64 per cent of students in Ontario have not reported a case of COVID-19. Furthermore, approximately 92 per cent of schools across the province have had either no cases or one case reported within the last 14 days. Students in Ontario are not required to receive a COVID-19 test when they are absent from school.

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