Students and parents in Durham and Halton Region, along with much of southern Ontario will learn today when schools will be able to return to in-person learning.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams will announce the return date on Wednesday, two and a half weeks into southern Ontario’s latest foray into the world of virtual instruction for elementary and secondary students.
Kids in five other public health regions – Toronto, Peel, York, Windsor-Essex and Hamilton – will be learning from home until at least Feb. 10.
Students in northern Ontario went back to class in-person on Jan. 11.
The online learning regime has forced parents to make sometimes uncomfortable and maddening adjustments, balancing work inside or outside the home with the needs of their kids, along with making sure everyone has space and sufficient internet bandwidth to access class.
Throughout the fall term, the subject of transmission of COVID-19 in schools challenged officials, with medical experts and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce saying spread in schools was caused by prevalence of infection in the wider community.
During the term, more than 7,000 students and staff tested positive for the virus and at least one education worker died.
In December, health units in Windsor and Toronto began voluntarily testing entire schools full of asymptomatic pupils for the virus and found dozens of positive cases, prompting a rethink about existing safeguards.
When students return this term, more of them will be wearing masks in class.
Ontario will mandate that students in grades 1-3 will wear masks at all times, previously masking began in grade 4.
In Toronto, all students from Kindergarten up wore masks indoors at all times.
Since the summer, the Ford government allocated about $840 million to reduce class sizes, increase ventilation, hire more custodians and set up a network of 600 public health nurses to assist schools.
They also accepted $381 million in help from the federal government and allowed school boards to dip into $500 million in existing reserve funds to help schools prepare for the impact of the virus.