Though elementary school students across Ontario were set to return to in-person classes this coming Monday, the Ford government has just announced that all students in Southern Ontario elementary and secondary schools will remain in online learning until January 25th.
The move is being made in an effort to keep students and staff safe before a fuller return to school and in-person classes, given that COVID-19 cases are still terrifyingly trending upward across the province with thousands of new cases reported every day.
Additionally, lockdown measures in Northern Ontario are being extended an additional 14 days, in line with the lockdown in Southern Ontario.
BREAKING: The Ford government has "significant concerns" about children returning to school for in-class learning next week, CTVNews has learned — as positivity rates among school aged kids quadrupled in December. https://t.co/Xz2yEkMTPt
— Colin D'Mello CTVNews (@ColinDMello) January 7, 2021
The hope is that keeping staff and students in remote learning at home for longer will reduce the spread of COVID-19 across Ontario while case numbers continue climbing in spite of province-wide lockdown measures put in place on December 26th.
“With the public health trends where they are across the province, our priority remains keeping students, teachers, school staff, and all Ontarians safe,” said Premier Doug Ford.
“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.”
Officials also believe the recent holidays to have been a contributing factor in a rise in COVID-19 cases, with many Ontario residents electing to gather with others outside of their immediate household in spite of lockdown rules.
“In the last two weeks, we have seen concerning trends at home and abroad, as well as increased community transmission during the holidays, indicating that it is not yet the time to begin easing public health and workplace safety measures,” said Ontario health minister Christine Elliott.
Whether or not online learning in Ontario could see further extension remains to be seen.
Read the full release on the Ontario website.