WINDSOR, ONT. -- All elementary and secondary school students are being ordered to transition to online/remote learning starting on Monday, according to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

Medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed is issuing a Section 22 Order.

"Due to the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in Windsor and Essex County and the evidence of ongoing community transmission, I am issuing a Section 22 order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, that requires all elementary and secondary school students to transition to online/remote learning effective Monday, December 14,” said Ahmed.

The order will be in place for one week from Dec.14 to Dec. 18, which will bring students into the school holiday break.

WECHU says key elements of the order include:

  • Schools will be closed to all students and in-person learning including before and after programs
  • Schools will remain open for educators and staff
  • Schools will remain open for full time day cares only

"An extension of this order may be considered based on COVID-19 epidemiological data for Windsor and Essex County,” said Ahmed.

Windsor-Essex has seen a surge in new COVID-19 cases this week, including a record-high 127 new cases on Wednesday and 104 new cases on Thursday. Several schools have virus cases and there have been four school outbreaks since September.

Here is a map of COVID-19 cases in Windsor-Essex public and Catholic schools.

Ahmed said the closure is because the health and safety of students and staff remains a priority for the WECHU.

“This action is being taken in an effort to keep our community safe and prevent further spread of COVID-19,” said Ahmed.

The health unit said it is working with all school boards in Windsor and Essex County to ensure that continuity of learning remains a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board director of education Terry Lyons said throughout this closure, teachers and support staff will continue to report to their schools and teach their lessons remotely from there.

“At the secondary level, all of our teachers were supplied with webcams earlier this year and will continue to teach online as they have already been doing,” said Lyons. “Secondary students in cohorts A and B who had been attending school on an alternating schedule will now be learning completely online.”

Lyons said at the elementary level, the board proactively ordered new Chromebooks and webcams in order to support teacher instruction and student learning.

“Prior to being dismissed from school on Friday, elementary teachers will be providing their students with further instruction on how to access their classrooms online. Although we cannot guarantee additional devices for every student, our IT department will do its absolute best to try to accommodate all requests.”

A statement from the Greater Essex County District School Board said learning will continue for all students online for the week.

Elementary students are to follow their current school’s start and end times while secondary students, in the adapted model, will shift to online 150-minute learning blocks separated by a one-hour break each day.

There will be no changes for students in the GEC Virtual Schools and all schools will remain open for staff and full-time daycare facilities.

“The Health Unit has been clear that this action is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 cases occurring in the community.  Our schools are safe places to learn,” the statement said.

The GECDSB said updates will be posted to its website and families who may require technical support for online learning can email

Parent and student reaction

The news comes as a disappointment to some parents and students who say the in-class learning environment is important.

“Kids need to learn,” said father Aaron Pelosi. “They need to have the interaction, the socialization with the teachers. Taking young kids out of school early, what does it do? It stresses parents out.”

Grade 9 student Nathan Lebeznick believes the free time will be good, but is hoping for some eventual normalcy.

“I guess having the free time would be nice but still I think, just I want things to go back to how the way they were beforehand because being in that leaning environment just makes progressing educationally a lot easier,” Lebeznick said.

Father Marcos Aguilar believes it’s important to go with the flow.

“We got to roll with the punches, however the world changes we got to roll with it you know,” he said. “It’s not like we have much say about it anyways but it gives a lot of the parents more time to have with their kids and I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes.”

Further information will be released by WECHU on Friday morning during the YouTube Live briefing at 9:30 a.m.

- With files from CTV Windsor's Chris Campbell