The Ontario government has announced schools in four more public health units in southern Ontario will reopen for in-person learning on Monday — Niagara will not be one of them.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Thursday students in Ottawa, Eastern Ontario, Southwestern and Middlesex-London public health units would be able to return to physical classrooms.
Last week, Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff, parliamentary assistant to Lecce, said the government intends to send Niagara students back to the classroom on Feb. 10.
“While our intention is for students to return to class on Feb. 10, we are reliant on advice from the chief medical officer of health to ensure that we can reopen schools safely,” he said.
District School Board of Niagara education director Warren Hoshizaki said the best place for students to learn is at school.
“When the province says it’s safe for us to return, we are ready to welcome everyone back,” he said.
Hoshizaki said DSBN has not received any information about new requirements announced last week by the ministry: provincewide targeted asymptomatic testing, enhanced screening, mandatory masking for students in grades 1 to 3, and where physical distancing is not possible.
“When the time comes, we will make sure families are informed about the new PPE requirements and that they have the important information they need to successfully return to in-person learning,” he said.
Niagara Catholic District School Board education director Camillo Cipriano said students will continue to be supported while learning from home.
“Niagara Catholic’s team has been watching the daily case counts in Niagara, and while we had some decline earlier in the week, we expected it was not enough for the Ministry of Education to reopen schools here at this point,” he said.
The government said the province’s top doctor would continue to review public health trends and advise when in-person learning can resume in other public health units.
It also said local public health units continue to have the authority to close schools based on their own circumstances. Parents can also continue to have their children enrolled in remote learning.
Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: [email protected]