Students across Ontario will not be returning to the classroom by Monday as originally planned, with Queen’s Park extending at-home learning another two weeks.
All students in northern Ontario and elementary students in southern Ontario were to spend the first week back to school in a virtual classroom, returning to the physical classroom by January 11. However, with COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, health officials made the call to extend virtual learning in southern Ontario another 14 days to January 25.
“With the public health trends where they are across the province, our priority remains keeping students, teachers, school staff, and all Ontarians safe,” said Premier Doug Ford in an email statement. “That’s why we’re extending the remote learning period for students in Southern Ontario and the shutdown period for Northern Ontario, while continuing to provide financial relief for parents through the Support for Learners program as well as electricity rate relief for all time-of-use customers. We have to get the numbers down and today’s measures will help us continue to stop the spread of this deadly virus.”
Targeted testing done among students and staff in December 2020 confirmed that schools are not a significant source of transmission. However, with students having been at home for several weeks and with reports of concerning behaviour over the holidays, the positivity rate among school-aged children has increased sharply.
the positivity rate for kids aged 12-13 years old increased from 5.44 per cent in late November-early December to nearly 20 per cent in early January.
“I have and remain firmly committed to getting students back into class as soon as possible – there is nothing more important. However, the best medical and scientific experts have been clear: while schools have been safe places for kids, the sharp rise in community transmission puts that progress and Ontario families at risk,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “During this time, students will remain engaged in live teacher-led online learning with access to enhanced mental health and technology supports.”
Elementary students and secondary students in the seven northern Ontario public health unit regions will proceed with returning to in-person learning on January 11, 2021.