Ontario’s education minister has confirmed the start dates for in-person learning at schools will not change amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases over the holidays.
In a letter sent to parents on Saturday, Stephen Lecce reiterated that “schools are not a source of rising community transmission” and that the institutions have been protected in part due to the extended holiday break.
Ontario went into a provincewide lockdown as of Dec. 26, forcing non-essential businesses to close and prohibiting in-person dining at bars and restaurants.
Among the restrictions, the province announced that publicly-funded elementary schools would be closed until at least Jan. 11. Students will instead participate in remote, virtual learning during the first week of the month.
In northern Ontario, all schools are scheduled to reopen on that date while in southern Ontario, secondary school students were told they would not be returning to the classroom until Jan. 25.
Secondary school students in southern Ontario were told they would not be returning to the classroom until Jan. 25.
The lockdown itself is scheduled to last until at least Jan. 23 in southern Ontario, pending an extension order by the government.
On Saturday, Lecce confirmed that in-person learning will resume on the original dates outlined.
“We believe so strongly that schools are essential to the well-being, mental health and development of a child, and therefore, must be safeguarded at all costs to ensure they can remain open for safe in-class instruction,” the letter said.
“I want to reassure parents that according to the province’s leading doctors, our schools are safe, with eight out of 10 schools in this province having no cases of COVID-19 and based on board reporting, 99.64 per cent of students have not reported a case of COVID-19.”