Jan. 17 is back-to-school day for Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton and Ontario schoolchildren

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Published January 10, 2022 at 9:24 pm

Students will be going back to in-class learning in Ontario.

Ontario students will return to school classrooms on Jan. 17, Premier Doug Ford’s office told The Canadian Press.

Multiple reports on Monday night indicated that schoolchildren in Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton and across Ontario are going to return to in-person learning on Jan. 17.

While remote learning is highly unpopular with parents, children and educators alike, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is putting an immense strain on workers on the health-care system in several cities. Hamilton, for instance, is averaging 10 new hospital admissions and two new ICU patients per day, and nurses at one hospital are caring for four patients at a time when, ideally, they should be looking after a single stricken person.

The leaked news also comes while non-essential services such as in-person dining and gyms are closed or suspended provincewide, as part of a return to ‘modified Step 2’ in Ontario’s roadmap to reopen. It did not indicate whether promised safety improvements, such as available N95 masks for teachers, readily accessible PCR tests for schoolchildren who are under 5 years old and vaccine-ineligible, and installation of HEPA filters in all classrooms, had been delivered.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said she was onside with in-person school resuming, but only under the right conditions are in place.

“The reopening of schools … must be met with more resources to keep schools safe and expanding vaccination efforts for students & educators,” she wrote on Twitter, linking to a statement from Ontario’s big city mayors.

 

Ontario students have had the most education loss — 26 weeks of classroom time, about two-thirds of a school year — of any jurisdiction in North America during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province has added 10 dedicated vaccine clinics for educational and childcare workers, after calls to do so for over a year. But they are only in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

The Ontario Public School Boards Assocation also noted that the Ford government has not updated the Immunization of School Pupils Act to include vaccination against COVID-19. The immunization law is a legacy of a Progressive Conservative premier, the late Bill Davis.

“We’ll keep pushing for access to PCR testing for students and in-school staff, as well as for adding COVID-19 to the list of designated diseases in Ontario Regulation 261/13 Designated Diseases under the Immunization of School Pupils Act,” the OPBSA wrote.

Public Health Ontario data showed that the province had 368 ongoing outbreaks associated with schools or childcare settings as of Dec. 25, which represented 20.9 per cent of the total such outbreaks in the second half of 2021. But Premier Ford and his Ontario PC government, including Education Minister Stephen Lecce, did not make an announcement about the status of learning when the holiday break began on Dec. 17.

The announcement of a switch to remote learning came just before Jan. 1, Initially, schools were only closed for in-person on Jan. 3 and 4, before being extended to Jan. 17. By that point, many other provinces that are also being besieged by Omicron — which is believed to spread more rapidly, but be less debilitating for most people — had already taken similar actions.

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