Monday, January 24, 2022

Ontario students given the green light to return to classes next Monday

Two million Ontario schoolchildren will be back in their classes next Monday, the star learned.

Premier Doug Ford’s office confirmed Monday night that “as planned and previously announced, students will return to in-person learning on January 17”.

The move comes after children and teachers were forced into a fortnight of virtual learning due to the highly contagious Omicron version of COVID-19, which threatens to overwhelm the health care system. Many parents welcomed the news with relief but others raised concerns over safety. Virtual learning will be available to those students who want it.

Students’ return to school on January 3 was delayed until January 5 to allow N95 masks and additional HEPA air filter units to be distributed in schools.

However, last week Ford said a “tsunami” of COVID-19 cases forced the resumption of online classes for “at least” two weeks.

It sparked outrage from parents in a province where children have lost more time in the classroom than in any other jurisdiction in North America.

Bronwen Alsop, a Toronto mother of two who has led the effort to keep schools open, said late Monday she was thrilled.

“I really hope they follow through. The emotional roller coaster of the past few weeks has been so intense on so many families, our kids,” Alsop said.

“we are broken.”

The mayors of Ontario’s largest cities wanted schools to reopen next week, saying the mental and physical health of children is “paramount” and that further delays will cause more suffering.

In a resolution passed at a meeting late Monday, Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) said they are in support of calls from pediatricians and parents to resume in-person classes.

The motion, introduced by Kingston Mayor Brian Patterson and backed by Patrick Brown of Brampton, passed unanimously.

“We make every effort to make sure that children back in school can learn individually on January 17th,” Brown said in an interview.

“It is very clear that the medical authorities of health and pediatricians in the province have a strong opinion that learning with their peers is in the best interest of children.”

Brown, who was Ford’s predecessor as a progressive conservative leader, said there is a “cost to society” given the academic loss and the toll from remote learning on children’s mental health.

Because of that, the mayors hoped that “the province would not delay getting children back to school … I don’t see what an extra week of preparation would accomplish other than more suffering for the children.”

Initially, the government considered allowing only high schools to reopen, given the nearly 90 percent vaccination rate among teenagers.

Less than half of children aged five to 11, who only qualified for their shots on November 23, have received a shot.

But Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer and a strong supporter of reopening schools, signed off on the decision, sources say.

An additional 3,000 HEPA filters have been sent to Ontario orbits, up from 70,000 previously. N95 masks will be given to all academic staff including teachers and an expanded booster program has been launched with 10 clinics around the state.

The government hopes that allays the concerns of parents and teachers, who are concerned that it is not yet safe to resume activities at school because Omicron is so permeable.

The return to the school was urged by experts from Sick Kids and Ottawa’s CHEO Children’s Hospital, as well as business and community leaders, who wrote an open letter to the Star and other Torstar publications.

Students in some provinces returned to school on Monday, while students in Quebec are due to return next week.

Brown said civic leaders inspired the province to act as their constituents are telling them.

“We are on the front lines with our residents – we hear directly from our residents,” said Brampton Mayor.

He added that it is “causing real anguish for parents” who are “concerned about their children.”

Against that background, the province has again reached an agreement with the Ontario Teachers Federation to allow retired teachers to log more hours in classes to help ease the anticipated labor shortage, up from the usual 50 days to 95 days. has been allowed to do.

A program announced last year that allows student-teachers to work as supply teachers will continue.

“We are seeing staff shortages affecting all sectors of the economy,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement.

“Prior to Omicron’s arrival in Ontario, school boards were reporting high rates of absenteeism from education staff. When students return to in-person learning, we need to continue to provide live teacher-based distance learning and secure their schools. Requires employees to operate from.

The Ontario Teachers Federation said there was a pre-pandemic staff shortage in some parts of the province and teaching some subjects.

Queens Park said that nearly 40 percent of school boards report that a quarter of teachers’ absences were not met last time.

More than half the boards reported recruiting student-teachers to fill.

At the same time Ford announced a two-week school shutdown, it closed restaurants, bars and gyms to indoor services until January 26.

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