Students will not return to in-class learning to finish the school year

By CityNews Kitchener Staff

Students across Ontario will wrap up the 2020-21 school year by learning online.

The official announcement was made Wednesday afternoon by Premier Doug Ford, who was joined by Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Health Minister Christine Elliott.

The government said it is doing so to better protect families from the fast growing B.1.617.2 variant, and to allow for higher rates of vaccination of students, staff, and families.

“At a time when our top priority is putting the third wave behind us so that we can safely enter Step One of our Roadmap to Reopen, we can’t risk increased cases and potential downstream impacts on hospitals and ICUs,” Premier Ford said. “Making this tough decision now will allow kids to safely enjoy camps and outdoor activities this summer, and a safe return to school in September.”

Due to the rise in COVID-19 cases during the third wave, all schools switched to online learning back in April.

Meantime, Patrick Etmanski, president, Ontario English Catholic School Teachers' Association Waterloo, said teachers and students are just grateful to finally hear something from the province. 

“I'm of two minds, we've said since the beginning of the pandemic that we want kids in school because it the best place for them to learn, and now we're being told that it's not safe, and it kind of reinforces what we've been saying all along.”

He added school boards and teachers' unions have been discussing new variants of concern, and how to deal with them in the classroom. 

“By keeping the number of kids low in classrooms, 15 to a class would help, increase ventilation, all those things we've been on and on about, and now suddenly we can't put them back in school because of the variants.”

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