Christmas break winds down as Ontario students switch to virtual learning on Monday

Staggered return times for elementary and high school students in southern Ontario

Parents won’t have to shoo their kids out the door for school.

Ontario students return to class after the Christmas break on Monday, but this will be online learning.

“Now, while leading medical experts have been clear that schools are not a source of rising community transmission, we can and will be an important part of the solution to save lives from COVID-19,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce, in a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday. “That is why we are following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health by taking proactive and preventative action to protect schools following the holiday break.”

All publicly funded schools will have online learning the week of Jan. 4.

In-person learning will return for elementary students on Jan. 11, as well as secondary students in northern Ontario. High school students in southern regions including Simcoe Muskoka will not be allowed back in the classroom until Jan. 25.

“I want to reassure parents that according to the province’s leading doctors, our schools are safe, with eight out of ten schools in this province having no cases of COVID-19 and based on board reporting, 99.64% of students have not reported a case of COVID-19,” Lecce said in his statement.

The minister also reminded parents about various financial relief programs to help families cope with additional costs as a result of the pandemic.

During the week of Jan. 4, before and after school programs have been cancelled.

Ontario entered a lockdown on Boxing Day. Premier Doug Ford said on Dec. 21 the move was being taken in a bid to ease rising numbers of COVID-19 case numbers and to assist hospitals from being overwhelmed.

The lockdown is expected to end Jan. 9 in northern Ontario. Health units in Simcoe Muskoka and other southern districts will be in lockdown until at least Jan. 23.