Students expected to return to in-person learning on Monday

Schools in Ontario are preparing to welcome students back to in-person learning as of Monday, January 17 as the province’s plan as directed appears to be moving forward.

Limestone District School Board (LDSB) Communications Officer Karen Smith says local schools are prepared to return to an in-person setting, however as of Tuesday afternoon they had still not received confirmation from the Ministry of Education, and are hoping for more information later this week.

Smith says the school board is prepared to continue supporting students, staff and families in a remote learning capacity if the provincial government decides to further delay the return.

The Ford government announced a reversion to a modified step two of the Roadmap to Reopening on January 3, saying that the length of time with these measures in place would depend on public health trends.

As of Tuesday, Ontario had 3,220 COVID patients in hospital, with 477 in ICU.

Despite other provisions remaining in place like the closure of in-person dining and indoor recreation, students and faculty will now be expected in schools on Monday.

In a statement from the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), ETFO President Karen Brown says teachers unions were not consulted in the province’s decision, and were left to find out the news through reporters on social media.

In the release, Brown says the union has doubts about what changes, if any, have been made to ensure the safety of students and staff.

“After witnessing the Ford government’s repeated failure to slow the spread of COVID-19, we aren’t surprised by last night’s return-to-class announcement, if we can call it that,” Brown said.

“We’re left asking, once again, what has been done to ensure in-person learning can return safely and sustainably, and why isn’t the Ford government consulting with ETFO or sharing its plans with us directly?”

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said during the delay to return to school that the province would provide all education workers with N95 masks and add 3,000 high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to schools.

In their statement, ETFO raised concern with the fact there has been no confirmation about either of those things actually happening, as well as the overall lack of reporting and testing available in schools.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce is expected to speak at a news conference on Wednesday.