Area students will have to stick with online learning until at least February 10, the Waterloo Region District School Board announced today (Friday).
This decision is based on current directions from the Ministry of Education and the advice of public health experts with the intention of slowing the spread of COVID-19. Any further extension to the period of remote learning will be determined by the Ministry of Education and will be communicated closer to the planned return to in-person learning,” the board posted on its website.
The decision comes just days after Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced a return to in-school learning for seven of the 35 Public Health Units in the province, bringing 100,000 students back to class. The regions slated to return first on January 25 are Grey Bruce Health Unit, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Health Unit, Leeds Grenville, and Lanark District Health Unit, Peterborough Public Health Unit, and Renfrew County and District Health Unit. Students in Northern Ontario were permitted to return to their classrooms as of January 11.
Originally scheduled to return January 25, a date later pushed back a week, the boards in Waterloo Region and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph have opted to stay online-only until at least February 10, a date that coincides with the province’s earlier date for students in the hotspot areas of the GTA, Hamilton and Windsor.
The Upper Grand District School Board posted their own update this morning: “At this time, we do not expect that schools will resume in-person learning until the end of the provincial emergency orders on February 11, 2021, at the earliest.”
In Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, medical officer of health Dr. Nicola Mercer said officials are monitoring declines in the number of COVID-19 cases to determine when school can resume.
“Everyone wants schools open for in-person learning as soon as it’s safe,” she said in a release. “We are doing the difficult work of bringing COVID back down to levels where we can safely reopen schools, but we are simply not there yet. I urge everyone in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph to keep up the work of reducing the spread of the virus.”
Her counterpart in Waterloo Region, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, offered similar cautions.
“Public Health is supportive of the extension of online learning for Waterloo Region schools, and of the additional measures announced yesterday to further protect our schools and support the return to in-person learning. I appreciate it’s a difficult decision to determine when in-person learning may resume; many families are concerned about returning and many are feeling strained managing online learning. Our local situation remains serious and our understanding of the provincial announcement is that the Ministry of Education has determined that Waterloo Region schools will continue on-learning for the time being,” she said in a statement.