Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has issued a statement providing an update on which schools can resume for in-person learning. No schools or school boards serving communities in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, or the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry, are on that list.
“On the advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the government is allowing seven public health units and over 100,000 students to return to class on Monday, January 25,” said Lecce.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is not among those seven public health units.
As of Thursday, January 21, schools under the jurisdiction of the EOHU which are part of the Upper Canada District School Board are tentatively to resume in-person learning on February 10. The Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario, and the Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien have not indicated a possible date for when in-person learning could resume at their schools within the EOHU territory.
According to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and leading medical and scientific experts, including the Hospital for Sick Children, Ontario’s schools are safe places for learning.
Public schools in Québec resumed classroom learning on January 11 following an extended Christmas break. Students in most of Ontario have not been in classrooms since before their Christmas break began and are learning online, at home. There were numerous cases of COVID-19 at schools across the EOHU territory in December, 2020. Since classes have resumed in Québec, cases of COVID-19 have been reported at four schools in the Argenteuil regional municipality that borders Prescott and Russell counties.
To ensure schools remain safe, the government is introducing additional measures including provincewide targeted asymptomatic testing, enhanced screening, mandatory masking for students in Grades 1-3 and outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Schools under the jurisdiction of the following public health units will be able to resume in-person classroom learning on January 25, 2021:
- Grey Bruce Health Unit
- Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit
- Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit
- Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Health Unit
- Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
- Peterborough Public Health
- Renfrew County and District Health Unit
To support families during this period, childcare will remain open and available for non-school aged children across the province. Where elementary schools continue to be closed for in-person learning, before and after school programs continue to be closed and prohibited from charging parent fees. Emergency childcare will be extended to support those workers who require it during this period.
To support students facing mental health difficulties, the government announced an additional and immediate $10 million from its phase two federal funding allocation to support student mental health and expand access to services in both rural and urban communities. This funding builds on the Government’s investment of more than $32.5 million in student mental health since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This investment supports up to 475 additional staff to support student mental health and compliments the addition of 625 school-based public health nurses and expanded mental health education.
In addition, direct financial supports through the Ontario’s Support for Learners program remains open until February 8, 2021.