Students in the London area will continue to study for the foreseeable future as the Department of Health has only approved a handful of districts to return to the classroom next week, including Gray Bruce.
Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce issued a statement Wednesday afternoon allowing schools to return to face-to-face learning in certain health units. The Middlesex London Health Unit and Southwestern Public Health Unit, which cover school boards in the London area, were not on the list.
“On the advice of 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,” Lecce said in a statement.
“Getting students back into class is our top priority. Ontario schools are safe places to learn, according to the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health and leading medical and scientific experts including the Hospital for Sick Children.”
The announcement revealed some of the measures the province will take to further contain the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
“To keep schools safe, the government is introducing additional measures, including nationwide targeted symptom testing, improved screening, and mandatory masking for grades 1 through 3 and outdoors where physical distance cannot be maintained.”
The decision does not affect students with complex special needs currently in school.
“More information will be shared with our school communities as soon as it becomes available from the Department of Education,” Mark Fisher, director of education for the Thames Valley District School Board, said in a statement.
“We thank our families, students, and staff for their continued patience,” added Director Fisher. “This is not an easy situation and we appreciate the understanding and commitment to continue learning during this time.”
Childcare remains open and is available to children outside of school. Before and after school, the programs are still closed. The province says emergency childcare will be expanded to support workers who need it during this time.
Schools in the following health unit jurisdictions will return to face-to-face learning on Monday:
- Gray 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