In-person learning resumes in Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton, Halton, Durham and Niagara Region

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Published January 18, 2022 at 8:57 pm

For the first time in more than one month, in-person learning should take place tomorrow in schools across Mississauga, Brampton and Hamilton, as well in Durham, Halton and Niagara regions.

For some children, that could be hinge on whether there are enough drivers for all of the school bus routes. The snowstorm-delayed return also comes amid much trepidation among parents about their children’s safety, since one-quarter of all hospitalizations of children due to COVID-19 in Ontario have occurred in the last six weeks of the pandemic.


The Ontario PC Party government has promised that schools will receive additional HEPA filters. Teachers are slated to receive N95 masks and children will receive cloth masks. There have been indications that not all supplies will arrive this week. Another contentious point with the PCs’ plan is that schools do not have to report individual COVID-19 cases. The minimum requirement for informing parents is if 30 per cent of the staff and student population are absent, but children who log in for virtual learning count as present.

On Tuesday, Hamilton’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, addressed how parents could work through their concerns.

“It’s quite understandable what parents are going through as they decide how to move forward,” Richardson said. “When we look at school, it’s really an essential service — it’s essential for the well-being of our children. And when we look it at broadly, around what the risks are that we’re trying to balance, we know very well there are some risks to COVID-19 but there are some very significant risks from a mental health perspective, and academic perspective, the learning perspective.

“That’s why you heard the call some while ago about schools being the first to open and the last to close — because of their importance to our children and our society, more broadly. As parents are looking through the information, the schools have made this is as easy as possible, for parents to look at options as they come back in school. Parents need to make decisions that best work for themselves. We’re glad that children are coming back to school.”

Richardson added there needs to be a transition in thinking about COVID-19.

“In terms of us moving forward and learning to live with COVID-19, we do need to think about this virus in terms of how we manage it as we go forward,” “If ultimately, we don’t have tests available to all of us, we don’t know exactly where all those cases are and what is happening around us. So how do we protect ourselves? That’s why using public health measures, making sure our screening is done, keeping children and ourselves home when they’re sick, is important.”

Elementary school students and parents will continue to use a ‘passport’ system before going to school each day. Staff, secondary students and visitors to schools are required to conduct daily on-site confirmation of self-screening using the COVID-19 school and childcare screener tool, although local public health guidance takes precedence over that.

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board posted a letter signed by Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore to its Twitter account. Some of the safety upgrades touted in the letter, such as deploying 3,000 additional HEPA filters and hiring 2,000 more staff members, are spread across the entire province’s nearly 4,900 schools.

Students were last in class in Ontario on Dec. 17. The province’s students have lost about 27 weeks’ worth of in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is more than their peers in every other jurisdiction in Canada and the United States.

Here is the lay of the land for Wednesday across inSauga’s coverage regions.

Hamilton

The Hamilton public board (HWDSB) cancelled remote learning on Tuesday due to the inclement weather. The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB) switched students to asynchronous learning, where assignments are posted online at around 10 a.m..

It appears both will be ready for in-person learning tomorrow. However, Shawn McKillop, the HWDSB manager of communications and community engagement, said they “currently await shipment” of 57 additional HEPA filters from the Ontario Ministry of Education. It already had about 1,039 across its 103 schools.

Patrick Daly, chair of the HWCDSB, said its schools will soon be receiving another 38 HEPA filters from the province. Around 1,100 have installed across its 54 schools.

Peel Region (Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon)

Both the Peel District and Dufferin-Peel Catholic school boards, which cover Mississauga and Brampton, confirmed through Twitter that they are open tomorrow. The Dufferin-Peel Catholic board reportedly told educators on Tuesday night that children who have no bus driver to transport them would be temporarily switched to online learning.

Halton Region

The Catholic and public boards in neighbouring Halton Region also said in-person learning has the green light on Wednesday. That said, the Halton Catholic District School Board advised parents of “high rates of (bus) driver shortages as a result of COVID-19 isolation requirements.”

Durham Region

Both of Durham Region’s major school boards had to shelve in-person learning on Tuesday. The Catholic school board now says that a switch to teeacher-led remote learning remains possible on Wednesday, if buses cannot traverse snow-packed streets.

Durham District School Board (DDSB) pupils and parents would likely be in the same boat, since Catholic and public boards in the same area usually share the same transportation service. Interestingly, the DDSB tweeted a reminder that parents of elementary students have until 11:59 p.m. on Friday to switch a student from online to in-person learning.

Niagara Region

Niagara Region also its second snow day in a row on Tuesday. The region got more snow than other areas of Southern Ontario, with 50 cm falling in some areas. There appears to be an expectation of schools opening safely on Wednesday, although snow removal remained a challenge as of Tuesday evening.

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