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The Ontario government has announced that elementary students in southern Ontario will not return to school for in-person learning until Jan. 25.
“With the public health trends where they are across the province, our priority remains keeping students, teachers, school staff, and all Ontarians safe,” a statement from Ontario Premier Doug Ford reads.
The province maintains that schools “are not a significant source of transmission” of COVID-19 but highlighted that the positivity rate among school-aged children has “increased sharply.” Most notably, the positivity rate for children between the ages of 12 and 13 increased from 5.44 per cent in late November, early December to nearly 20 per cent in early January.
The date for the return to in-person learning for high school students in southern Ontario will remain on Jan. 25.
“I have and remain firmly committed to getting students back into class as soon as possible - there is nothing more important,” a statement from Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education reads. “However, the best medical and scientific experts have been clear: while schools have been safe places for kids, the sharp rise in community transmission puts that progress and Ontario families at risk.”
“During this time, students will remain engaged in live teacher-led online learning with access to enhanced mental health and technology supports.”
The Ontario government has also announced the the lockdown in northern Ontario will be extended for an additional 14 days, to align with the rest of the province, but elementary and secondary students in the seven northern Ontario public health units will return to in-person learning on Jan. 11.
“While extending the shutdown in Northern Ontario is not the news many wanted to hear, we must work together to stop the spread of COVID-19, protect hospital capacity, and save lives,” Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health said in a statement.
Beginning on Jan. 11, the Support for Learners program will provide $200 for each child up to Grade 12 and $250 for each child up to age 21 with special needs. Applications will be open until Feb. 8.