Colleges in southerly Ontario to remain closed for in-person understanding till Jan. 25

Elementary students in southern Ontario schools will learn remotely for another two weeks, the province announced Thursday, amid rising COVID-19 infection rates.

The change in direction comes after the province’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce told parents in a letter over the weekend that their children would return to in-person learning on Monday.

Thursday’s announcement means that elementary students in 27 regions of the province, which includes Toronto, Peel, York and Ottawa, will learn at home for the same number of weeks secondary school students in these areas, who were scheduled to return to classrooms on Jan. 25. Students in seven northern regions of the province – which is delineated by the French river near Sudbury – will return to school on Monday, the province said on Thursday.

There has been growing concern among doctors and educators around elementary students returning to classrooms next week.

The province’s chief medical officer of health, David Williams, said on Thursday that public health units and medical experts had asked the province to delay the opening of schools by a week or two so that when schools open their doors, more measures are in place so they can remain open longer.

COVID-19 positivity rates in Ontario,

by age group

Nov. 9 to Dec. 5

Dec. 20 to 26

Dec. 27 to Jan. 2

0

5

10

15

20%

< 2 years old

2 to 3

4 to 11

12 to 13

14 to 17

18 to 22

23 to 29

Number of tests performed on children 17 and under

(thousands)

30 to 39

40 to 49

50 to 59

60 to 69

25.2

18.6

70 to 79

13.7

80 to 89

90 years

and older

MURAT Yükselir / the globe and mail, source:

Government of Ontario

COVID-19 positivity rates in Ontario, by age group

Dec. 27 to Jan. 2

Nov. 9 to Dec. 5

Dec. 20 to 26

0

5

10

15

20%

< 2 years old

2 to 3

4 to 11

12 to 13

14 to 17

18 to 22

23 to 29

30 to 39

Number of tests performed on children 17 and under

(thousands)

40 to 49

50 to 59

60 to 69

25.2

18.6

70 to 79

13.7

80 to 89

90 years

and older

MURAT Yükselir / the globe and mail, source:

Government of Ontario

COVID-19 positivity rates in Ontario, by age group

Dec. 27 to Jan. 2

Nov. 9 to Dec. 5

Dec. 20 to 26

0

5

10

15

20%

< 2 years old

2 to 3

4 to 11

12 to 13

14 to 17

18 to 22

23 to 29

30 to 39

Number of tests performed on children 17 and under

(thousands)

40 to 49

50 to 59

60 to 69

25.2

18.6

70 to 79

13.7

80 to 89

90 years

and older

MURAT Yükselir / the globe and mail, source: Government of Ontario

Earlier on Thursday, Premier Doug Ford said before the holidays, positivity rates in schools were much lower, but some age groups have jumped 116 per cent. He said one in five children under 13 are now testing positive for COVID-19. The data from Ontario also shows that there was a significant drop in number of tests performed for those aged 17 and under. In the week of Nov. 29, there were 25,160 tests performed compared to 13, 684 tests the week of Dec. 27.

“I will never ever ever sacrifice our kids going back to school if the health table and the doctors are telling me not to do it,” Mr. Ford said.

Earlier in the day, the medical officer of health in the Windsor area said he would be closing schools for two weeks to in-person instruction regardless of the province’s decision.

“From Monday, whether the province [does] it or whether I do it, it will be an online learning model for our community,” Wajid Ahmed, Medical Officer of Health for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, said in media briefing on Thursday morning.

Open this photo in gallery

Wajid Ahmed, Chief Officer of Health for Windsor-Essex County poses for an image outside his office in Windsor, Ont. on Thursday June 25, 2020.

Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press

Dr. Ahmed said given the data on COVID-19 cases he is not comfortable with sending children into the classroom. Students will learn remotely until at least Jan. 23, Dr. Ahmed said, at which time he will reassess the data.

Students in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec are learning remotely this week rather than returning to classrooms, a measure ministries of education introduced to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. In Manitoba, students in Grade 7 and up are taking online classes, and the government of Nova Scotia extended the holiday break.

On Wednesday, Quebec announced that primary students would return to the classroom on Monday with, but there will be additional safety measures, such as the use of masks in hallways for all students, and in the classroom for grades 5 and 6.

In an interview earlier this week, the head of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children said that unless safety measures, such as masks, physical distancing, cohorting and proper ventilation, are strictly followed, he would not be comfortable with children returning to school. The government also needs to institute a robust testing, tracing and isolation strategy in schools for anyone who gets COVID-19, said Ronald Cohn, president of SickKids.

“If we can’t guarantee that these things are in place, then I don’t feel comfortable that we’re opening schools given the current high and rising community level,” said Dr. Cohn, who is an expert in metabolic genetics and the hospital’s former pediatrician-in-chief.

It is clear that school-age children, as a group, tend to be less affected by COVID-19 than adults.

However, the role of schools in transmission remains an evolving picture. Aside from testing in some regions of Ontario before the holidays, very little monitoring is done in schools.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said the province will be placed under a curfew starting Saturday as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to rise. Quebeckers could be fined up to $6,000 if they’re found on the street between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. The Canadian Press

This article first published here www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ontario-schools-to-remain-closed-for-in-person-learning-until-jan-25/