Ontario plans for students to resume in-person classes after April break, education minister says | The Star
The Ontario government intends for schools to be open for in-person learning following the April break, Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce confirmed in a letter issued to the province’s parents Sunday afternoon.
All publicly funded and private elementary and secondary schools will be open for in-person learning despite the province’s stay-at-home order, except in regions that have directed schools to move to remote learning, Lecce wrote.
Despite in-person classes being omitted from the stay-at-home order, Toronto and Peel regions have moved students to remote learning in the face of growing COVID-19 cases. Regions have the authority to move schools to virtual learning on their own, without permission from the province.
School boards are now working to determine whether they will return to in-person learning after spring break. The Toronto District School Board wrote in a statement to parents that they expect to know by the end of the end of the week whether schools will return to in-person learning when spring break ends April 19, and plans to circulate an email to parents when they know more.
Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health for the city of Toronto, told the Star that an extension to the school closures could be considered depending on COVID-19 data in Toronto.
“Stronger public health measures are required to reverse the surge of infection that the province currently faces. Unfortunately, current circumstances require that difficult decisions must be taken locally to protect all those in our school communities, including students, teachers and staff,” Dr. Dubey said.
Education workers providing direct support to students with special education needs and education workers in the province’s hot spots will be eligible to register for a vaccine beginning Monday, Lecce’s letter confirmed. “I want to reiterate, that as you and people you know receive the vaccine, it is important that everyone continue to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing when outside of their immediate household.”
Peel District School Board is preparing to return to in-person classes on April 19 unless public health officials direct schools to remain closed. Any decisions will be communicated with parents immediately, a spokesperson for the board confirmed to the Star.
In Ottawa, medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches warned that it is possible schools will close in the region following the break. “The team will continue to review the situation and provide confirmation of a decision by Wednesday of next week at the latest,” Dr. Etches wrote in a statement Friday.
Parents with students at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board can expect to know if schools will move to remote learning Thursday evening. If that happens, schools will take a transition period of two days for elementary students and one day for secondary students while staff plan for remote learning, the board said in a statement April 8.
In a letter to families on April 6, York Region District School Board said that while schools will remain open for in-person learning, they are preparing for the possibility of closures. The board also directed families to take home technology and learning materials before the break began.
Lecce called the current upward trend in COVID-19 cases “worrisome” and urged parents to “remain vigilant” and to avoid contact with those outside their households.
“We cannot be complacent, because if we let our guard down, school safety can be compromised,” he wrote. “I am therefore asking you all to continue to lead by example by strictly following the rules, including taking a zero-tolerance approach to congregating with those outside your household.”
Following the break, schools will screen incoming students and staff, offer outdoor learning where possible and provide voluntary health and safety training after the break. “Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting” will be performed during the break, the letter noted.
The guidance outlined in the letter is consistent with Toronto Public Health’s own guidelines for schools, Dubey said.
In addition, the province is offering expanded access to asymptomatic testing will be available for staff and students at pharmacies that provide testing and at 180 assessment centres through the April break. The TDSB has said some schools may also offer school-based testing clinics.
The letter confirmed payments to parents via the Support for Learners program will be provided beginning April 26 for parents that did not previously receive a payment. In last month’s provincial budget, the government announced the expansion of the Support for Learners program, providing one-time funding of $400 per child up to Grade 12 or $500 for a child or youth with special needs.
Do you think Ontario schools will be able to open after the April break?
This content was originally published here.