By Mike Baker
High school and elementary students in Ontario will be transitioning back to at-home learning following April Break, Premier Doug Ford confirmed on Monday [April 12].
Ford said the rapid spread of “deadly” COVID-19 variants from South Africa, the UK and Brazil had led to this latest decision.
“Right now we need to do everything possible to get ahead of these variants, and unfortunately that means looking at our schools,” Ford said. “I know this is not what many of you want to hear… but until we get the numbers in the community down to where we need them – the problem is not in our schools, it is in our community – and bringing our kids back to a congregate setting in school after a week off in the community is a risk that I won’t take.”
There was no time frame given for when students can expect to return to the classroom.
Another 217 school-related cases of COVID-19, including 186 students, 30 staff and one person who was not identified were reported on Monday. As of press time, around 27 per cent of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly-funded schools has at least one confirmed case of the illness.
Schools in Haliburton County have been impacted fairly recently. Back on March 14, it was revealed that a Grade 11 chemistry class, a Grade 12 English class, and a Grade 12 math class from Haliburton Highlands Secondary School were quarantining after being identified as close contacts of two students who tested positive for COVID-19.
Last week, on April 6, it was confirmed that a positive COVID-19 case had been recorded at Archie Stouffer Elementary School.
Education minister Stephen Lecce informed the public on Monday that school boards will be directed to provide continued in-person support for students with special education needs who cannot learn remotely, and that, from April 19, childcare for non-school aged children will reopen, while free emergency childcare will be provided to health care and frontline workers.
“Our government will continue to listen to the advice of public health experts. We will update parents once a safe return to in-person learning is recommended,” Lecce said.