Ontario still quiet on school reopening plan, Ford promises update this week

With Ontario students set to head back to class amid record-high COVID-19 numbers, the provincial government is signalling some sort of announcement is coming on in-class learning — but won’t say yet what it is.

Asked Thursday morning if Ontarians should expect an announcement today regarding schools, provincial spokesperson Ivana Yelich simply said in an email: “We’ll provide an update on schools when there is one to give.”

As it stands, the province’s current plan is this:

  • Elementary students enrolled in in-person learning will learn remotely for the first week of January, but will return to class on Jan. 11.
  • Secondary students enrolled in in-person learning in northern public health units will return to class on Jan. 11 as well.
  • Secondary students enrolled in in-person learning in the rest of the province will return to class on Jan. 25.
  • Elementary and secondary schools currently enrolled in remote learning will continue to learn remotely throughout January.

During a Wednesday news conference, his first in weeks, Premier Doug Ford was asked if shutting down in-person learning is a possibility to curb the spread of the virus.

“We’re going to talk to the health table and the chief medical officer and get their advice,” Ford responded. “That’s the expertise that we’re going to take, and we’re going to take that advice and we’ll be announcing that in the next day or so.”

Meanwhile, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) released a statement Wednesday calling on the province not to send kids back to class while the province is under lockdown.

“It makes no sense for the government to send students, teachers and education workers back to school while the province is locked for another two to three weeks,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. 

“Despite repeated calls for adequate safety measures, the government has refused to implement them in a misguided effort to save money, jeopardizing the health and safety of students, educators and their families.”

In that same ETFO news release, University of Toronto epidemiologist Dr. David Fisman noted there is a 10 per cent daily increase in intensive care unit occupancy in Ontario right now.

“This is not the right time to restart in-person learning,” Fisman said.

“We have to assume that there is a lot of asymptomatic COVID-19 in schools. It is irresponsible to send children and educators back to schools without knowing for sure that it is safe to do so.”

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