Windsor-Essex students head back to the classroom on Jan.17: Here’s what you need to know
The provincial government has released more details on what the return to the classroom will look like for students across the province, including Windsor-Essex.
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce made the announcement on Wednesday about the return to school for in-person learning on Monday, Jan. 17. He was joined at Queen’s Park by the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore at 1:30 p.m.
Students have been learning virtually since Jan. 5 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Ontario.
Windsor-Essex acting medical officer of health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai said Monday he supports the move to resume in-person learning.
Schools in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent are expected to have their share of new N95 masks by the end of this week.
Here are the details released Wednesday by the provincial government:
- - 3.9 million rapid antigen tests will be delivered to elementary schools/childcare centres week of Jan. 10 (1.2 million week of Jan. 17)
- - 2 rapid tests will be given to every student/staff member
- - Tests to be replenished once used
- - Tests to be available to secondary students/staff as needed
- - Take-home self-collection PCR only for students/staff who become symptomatic while at school
- - Principals will track staff/student absenteeism
- - 30% absenteeism (staff & students) threshold will be reported to PHU’s
- - Joint letter then goes out to school community about next steps (ie. Remote learning, merging classes, etc.)
- - Retirees: Ministry has already increased re-employment rule from 50 days to 95 days
- - Teacher Candidates in University: Temporary Certificates expanded to allow first and second students to teach
- - Boards will be allowed to combine classes/assign students to different classes (while staying within class size caps)
- - Boards will be allowed to shift to remote learning if necessary
- - PHU’s and Boards working on school-based clinics, targeting 5-11 age cohort
- - Boards to ensure parental consent in place, for 5-11 year olds, for clinics during school hours
- - School-based clinics may operate before, during and after school hours
- - 100% of public school ventilation systems assessed
- - 99% of schools using higher grade filters, running ventilation systems longer & increased fresh air intake
- - All boards publicly posting standardized ventilation measure reports
- - Daily screening adjusted to reflect omicron symptoms
- - 10 million non-fit tested N95 masks now in schools
- - 4 million three-ply masks now in schools as backup for students
- - Time-limited cohorting on lunchtime and recess
- - Extra curriculars: paused for now
- - High-contact sports: paused for now
Kristen Siapis has four children headed back to school Monday, but she feels frustrated with the announcement and the changes in reporting COVID cases
“I think it's incredibly frustrating for parents right now, knowing that we've been doing virtual schooling for the last two weeks which puts additional stress and strain on parents and now we're going back into schools with at, what feels like, reduced safety, if nothing else,” she says.
Siapis says she is feeling less confident sending her kids back to school.
“I know that's where they can really thrive. I'm very disappointed to see the announcement today and I think there's going to be a lot of parents, regardless of where they come from, that are going to share that kind of frustration,” she says.
Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board spokesperson Stephen Fields says the shift in reporting signals a return to “more normal, pre-pandemic circumstances” when schools were responsible for reporting illnesses related absences to the health unit once a certain threshold was reached. Fields says it used to be at 10 per cent absenteeism, but as now shifted to 30 per cent for the Omicron variant.
When it comes to individual cases, individuals exposed only at school where all public health measures are in place are not considered “high risk” contacts according to the Ontario Ministry of Health, and local health units will no longer be dismissing cohorts, Fields says.
“We understand that parents have become accustomed to receiving notifications from the WECDSB regarding positive cases and cohort dismissals however, given the widespread transmission and inability to test all symptomatic individuals, Ontario school boards will not be routinely notifying parents or students/pupils in classes or on buses with a positive case, or if a child/student or staff is absent due to symptoms associated with COVID-19,” Fields says.
“This change in reporting is based on direction from both the Ministry of Health and the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health (OCMOH).”
With files from CTVNewsToronto.ca and CTV Windsor's Michelle Maluske, Melanie Borrelli and Sanjay Maru.
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