By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter
Students in Durham Region are heading back to in-person learning next week.
“Schools are looking forward to welcoming your child(ren) back to school,” states the Durham District School Board. “With students returning to in-person learning, it is important that everyone remembers to stay safe by following the direction of public health and provincial officials.”
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Wednesday, Feb. 3 that Durham Region, along with 12 other public health units, will be returning to in-person learning on Monday, Feb. 8.
School boards in the Durham Region Public Health Unit include DDSB; Durham Catholic District School Board; Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board; Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board; Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir; and Conseil scolaire Viamonde.
Students in Toronto, York and Peel will be returning to in-person learning on Tuesday, Feb. 16 following the Family Day holiday.
“We made a commitment to get your kids back to class. We said it had to be safe. And while this has not been easy on Ontario parents, students and our education staff, I want to be clear that safety is what has and what will drive our decisions every step of the way,” says Lecce.
He notes getting kids back to school is critical for their mental health and development.
More importantly, Lecce says having kids learn remotely and with the introduction of tougher measures and the stay-at-home orders, the province has seen a consistent decline in community transmission.
Lecce says the province will continue to act and add additional safety measures to keep children and staff safe and in school.
“As kids return, schools will be even safer as we introduce new and tougher measures to our plan to protect kids from COVID-19,” Lecce continues.
Masking is now mandatory for all students in Grade 1 and up, including outside when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Staff, students and parents are being encouraged to refrain from congregating before and after school, and all students and staff need to complete a daily screening before going to school.
Targeted asymptomatic testing is also expanding for students and staff across the province.
According to Lecce, it is up to the local medical officer of health and public health unit to determine where testing is needed. A focus will be given on communities experiencing a higher level of community transmission.
According to the province, testing will be voluntary and consent will be required for students under the age of 18.