The Ford government has extended in-class school closures and the move to online learning only for elementary students until Jan 25.
Students in the 27 Southern Ontario public health unit regions and extending the shutdown in Northern Ontario for another 14 days. The adjusment aligns schools with the shutdown period in Southern Ontario.
“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 Ford. “That’s why we’re extending the remote learning period for students in Southern Ontario and the shutdown period for Northern Ontario.”
He said the province will 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,” he added.
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.
“Most troubling, 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,” said a Premier’s office news release.
In response to increasing community transmission, in-person learning will be deferred to January 25, 2021 in Southern Ontario, which aligns with the planned return of in-person learning for secondary school students in these regions. 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.
Returning students to school now with community transmission and positivity rates so high risks losing the hard-fought progress made in keeping schools and students safe. The Ministry of Education will continue to act on the best advice of medical and health experts to ensure that students in Northern Ontario are able to return to school safely and, when safe to do so, students in Southern Ontario as well.
Warren Hoshizaki, Director of Education, at the District School Board of Niagara said in a letter to parents: “The closure extension means that your child will continue daily learning with their homeroom teacher, engaging in synchronous, asynchronous, and independent learning. You will still be able to contact your home school principal, and your child’s homeroom teacher is still available to answer your questions.”