Schools in Ottawa and eastern Ontario to reopen Monday
OTTAWA -- Students in Ottawa and eastern Ontario will be returning to class for in-person learning on Monday.
The Ontario government announced all elementary and secondary schools in the Ottawa Public Health and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit regions will reopen on Feb. 1.
"On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, with the support of the local Medical Officers of Health, and with the introduction of additional layers of protection, 280,000 students in four public health regions will return to class on Monday, Feb. 1," said a statement from Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
"The government agrees with the growing consensus in the medical community that returning students to in-person learning is essential to the wellbeing, development and mental health of children. According to leading medical and scientific experts, including Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, our province's schools are safe places for learning."
Students in the following school boards will resume in-person learning on Monday:
- Ottawa Carleton District School Board
- Ottawa Catholic School Board
- Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario
- Upper Canada District School Board
- Conseil des ecoles catholiques du Centre-Est
- Conseil des ecoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario
- Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l'Est Ontarien
The Ontario government says before and after school child care programs may also resume on Feb. 1. Emergency child care in Ottawa will end on Friday, Jan. 29.
Elementary and secondary schools in Ottawa have been closed since the end of the Christmas break on Jan. 4.
On Monday, schools in seven health units across southern Ontario reopened for in-person learning, including schools in Renfrew County, Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit and the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Health Unit.
SCHOOLS READY TO OPEN
Medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches says the city is ready for schools to reopen.
Etches and Mayor Jim Watson spoke with Lecce earlier this week to discuss schools and safety in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I feel confident that we can use the tools in our toolbox to keep COVID out of schools and manage it when it does come into schools, like we did in the fall," said Dr. Etches during an interview on CTV Morning Live Thursday morning.
"We knew that the screening was very key."
Dr. Etches is asking parents with a child that has a runny nose or a fever to do the COVID-19 screening, and be tested for the virus.
In a statement on Twitter, Ottawa Public Health admitted it is a good thing and a risky thing that schools are opening in Ottawa.
"Schools aren't opening because 'things are great.' Literally nothing about this is cause to relax," said OPH on Twitter Thursday afternoon.
"It’s quite the opposite, actually. Simply put: schools are opening because the risks and impacts of keeping schools closed far outweigh those of opening them."
Public health says while schools are not risk-free, "they're a better option for kids than a playdate at home."
Parents are urged to screen their children daily for COVID-19, and keep them home if they have any symptoms of COVID-19.
SAFETY IN SCHOOLS
Last week, the Ontario government announced additional measures to ensure schools remain safe:
- Mandatory masks for students in Grades 1-3 and outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained
- Province-wide targeted asymptomatic testing
- Enhanced screening
Masks will be mandatory for all students in Grades 1 through 12. Masks must be worn indoors, including in hallways and during classes, and during outdoor activities where physical distancing is not possible.
All students in Ottawa must complete the Ottawa Public Health screening tool before going to school.
Secondary students will be required to confirm that they have completed the daily self-assessment. The Ottawa Carleton District School Board and Ottawa Catholic School Board both said Thursday that work is underway to put a process in place for that.
All staff will need to complete a self-assessment before going to work on Monday.
OTTAWA CARLETON DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD
Ottawa Carleton District School Board Director of Education Camille Williams-Taylor says the board will implement the lessons learned at the start of the school year to limit the spread of COVID-19.
"We've learned from our reopening after the summer break coming into the fall that the structures that have been put in place have in fact mitigated spread and that we have ensured a safe space for students," said Williams-Taylor during an interview on CTV News at Five.
Williams-Taylor said there was "confidence" in the community during the fall with COVID-19 safety precautions in place.
"I think we've seen evidence that the protocols are not only being followed but that they are working and its welcome news that we're receiving our students back, but also enhancing those protocols so that we can remain open as we go into the rest of the winter and into the spring."
New protocols include mandatory masks for all students in Grades 1 through Grade 12, and secondary students will be required to confirm that they have completed the daily self-assessment.
The Ottawa Carleton District School Board says secondary students will return to the in-person learning model like in the fall, with the schedule beginning with Cohort A in-person on Monday. Schools will send more information to parents.
Williams-Taylor says the goal is to keep COVID out of schools, keeping them safe and "sustaining their opening."
OTTAWA CATHOLIC SCHOOL BOARD
The Ottawa Catholic School Board says secondary students will receive notification from their school by Sunday evening about what cohort that are in for semester two, which will begin on Monday, Feb. 1. School staff will notify parents whether their child is in the Cohort that starts in-person on Monday, February 1 or the Cohort that begins asynchronously at home on Monday.
Students in Grades 1 to 12 will be required to wear masks on school buses, in class, in schools and outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
The board says all staff will need to complete a self-assessment before going to work on Monday.