Return to school delayed until Jan. 5 in Ontario

Province will provide N95 masks to staff

Back-to-school after the Christmas break is being delayed until Wednesday, Jan. 5.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health told a news conference on Thursday that the delay in resuming classes by two days will provide schools with extra time to begin to put in place additional health and safety measures, including deploying additional masking options for students and educators and further improving air ventilation in schools.

“These and other measures including updating the COVID-19 school and child care screener, and asking students, parents and staff for rigorous screening and monitoring of symptoms creates more layers of protection to keep schools safe and open for in-person learning,” said Dr. Kieran Moore.

The province will deploy 3,000 more HEPA filter units to school boards in addition to the 70,000 it has already rolled out and will provide N95 masks to staff in schools and licensed child-care settings.

As well, only low-contact indoor sports and safe extra-curricular activities will be permitted starting in January.

At the same media briefing, Moore said effective on Friday, Dec. 31, spectator capacity will be restricted to 50 per cent of the usual seating capacity or 1,000 people, whichever is less, for sporting events, concert venues and theatres.

Ontario Liberal leader Stephen Del Duca is blasting Doug Ford, saying another school year has been thrown into chaos because of his incompetence.

“Doug Ford’s last-minute, two-day delay to re-open schools won’t do anything to keep our kids safe,” says Del Duca. “Ontario Liberals called for HEPA filters and high-quality masks to be urgently deployed in classrooms nearly two months ago but Doug Ford refused to do it when it mattered most. It feels like the Ford government went on holiday while Omicron surged.”

NDP leader Andrea Horwath says it looks like the premier is surrendering Ontario to COVID.

“Ford’s two-day school shut-down on short notice is a frustrating head-scratcher,” Horwath said in a statement. “Why would schools be safe enough on Wednesday but not on Monday? He’s leaving families scrambling to make child care plans, and with almost no new safety measures and no testing plan, he’s leaving everyone to worry that more shut downs for schools will keep coming.”