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Ontario keeping students in virtual learning for another two weeks

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

DURHAM/KAWARTHA: With daily COVID-19 cases continuing to rise throughout Ontario, the province recently decided to further delay the reopening of in-person classes at local elementary schools.

On Thursday, January 7th, the provincial government announced, in a press release, they were “extending online teacher-led learning, until January 25th, 2021, for elementary school students, in the 27 Southern Ontario public health unit regions.”

“With the public health trends where they are across the province, our priority remains keeping students, teachers, school staff, and all Ontarians safe,” Premier Doug Ford said, in a statement. “That’s why we’re extending the remote learning period for students in Southern Ontario and the shutdown period for Northern Ontario, while continuing to provide financial relief for parents, through the Support for Learners program, as well as electricity rate relief for all time-of-use customers. We have to get the numbers down and today’s measures will help us continue to stop the spread of this deadly virus.”

Elementary schools were originally scheduled to reopen on Monday, January 11th. But now, the return date for in-person school sessions, for elementary school students in Southern Ontario, matches those of secondary school students in the same part of the province.

Provincial officials pointed to the recent winter holiday celebrations as the reason to defer the return of in-class learning. “Targeted testing, done among students and staff in December 2020, confirmed schools are not a significant source of transmission. However, with students having been at home for several weeks and with reports of concerning behaviour over the holidays, the positivity rate among school-aged children has increased sharply. Most troubling, the positivity rate for kids aged 12 [to]13 years old increased, from 5.44 percent in late November early December, to nearly 20 percent in early January,” read the press release.

At a recent press conference, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams stated, this deferral will allow schools more time to prepare to welcome back students safely.

“We’re trying to get the right balance here, by saying we’re going to have a deferral of the opening for two weeks while we get these other things in place, because we want the schools open and we want them to stay open,” Dr. Williams said.

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