By: Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
SOUTH DUNDAS – Students living within the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region can begin to return to in-class learning starting February 1st. Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced via a press release Thursday morning that students in four health units can go back to schools. Students have been remotely learning since the Christmas break ended on January 4th.
The announcement by the provincial government means that more than 280,000 more students will return to class, including students in South Dundas.
“The government agrees with the growing consensus in the medical community that returning students to in-person learning is essential to the well-being, development and mental health of children,” Lecce said. “According to leading medical and scientific experts, including Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, our province’s schools are safe places for learning.”
Schools in Ottawa can also reopen February 1st. Ottawa Public Health, Middlesex-London Health Unit, and Southwestern Public Health Unit are the other three areas included in the announcement.
For Grade 1 to 3 students there are changes as mask wearing indoors is now mandatory. Additional measures for spacing and mask wearing in smaller outdoor areas have also been put in place.
Local details for returning to class have not been released by the four school boards that operate in the EOHU region. February 1st is a PA Day in both the Upper Canada District School Board and Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. This means the first day of school will be February 2nd.
While schools are reopening, local health units still can close schools if there are outbreaks, and parents have the option to keep their children at-home to learn.
Kindergarten to Grade 8 students returned to in-class learning in the neighbouring Leeds-Grenville-Lanark District Health Unit region on Monday. Grade 9-12 students in that health unit continued to learn remotely as it was also the last week of Quadmester Two. February 2nd marks the start of Quadmester Three for secondary students.
Neither English-language board has released its restart plan for students yet. French-language boards serving Ottawa and EOHU regions will also be returning to in-person learning next week.