Toronto schools will restart in-person learning at the same time as Peel and York Region
Toronto schools will be able to reopen for in-person learning effective Feb. 16, according to a press release issued by the Ontario government on Wednesday.
The Ontario government’s decision was based on the advice of the province’s chief medical officer, Dr. David Williams, a unanimous recommendation from the Council of Medical Officers of Health, and support from their local counterparts.
Toronto schools will be heading back for in-person learning at the same time as those from Peel and York Region. Students in other school boards in southern Ontario that have not yet gone back will return to schools on Feb. 8.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said in the press release that it was important students were able to return to in-person learning.
“Following the best medical advice, with the clear support of both Ontario’s and the local medical officers of health, we are reopening schools across the province knowing that we have taken additional steps and made additional investments to better protect our students and staff,” said Lecce.
“Nothing is more important than returning kids to school safely because it is crucial for their development, mental health and future success.”
Before and after school programs at Toronto schools will also be permitted to reopen on Feb. 16. Emergency child care will remain available until Feb. 12 to support eligible front-line workers.
The Ontario government said it will be introducing further measures to combat COVID-19 in schools. These measures include provincewide access to targeted asymptomatic testing for students and staff, mandatory masking in students from Grade 1 to 3 and masking for students from Grade 1 to 12 outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Williams said the Ontario government is doing whatever it can to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Reducing the transmission of COVID-19 is fundamental to keeping our communities and schools safe,” said Williams. “Our collective efforts, like strictly adhering to all public health measures, in addition to the enhanced safety measures in schools, will help keep communities healthy and students learning alongside their peers in their classrooms.”
The Ontario government has further promoted health and safety for students and staff by spending $381 million through the Safe Return to Class Fund. This funding will be used to improve air quality and ventilation in schools, support online learning, promote student mental health, and to hire additional staff. Ontario says it has given schools more than $1.6 billion to date to re-open amid COVID-19.
All students in Ontario began January with virtual learning due to provincial lockdown measures. However, as many reopen public health units continue to have the ability to stop in-person learning based on local circumstances.
Ontario has taken a staggered approach when it comes to reopening schools for in-person learning. Select areas in Ontario were able to reopen for in-person learning in January because of low case counts. Students in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Middlesex-London Health Unit, Ottawa Public Health and Southwestern Public Health resumed in-person learning on Feb. 1.