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Durham students expected to find out if they return to school next week

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter

Durham students are expected to find out today whether or not they will be returning to school for in-person learning next week.

Students have been learning from home virtually since the end of winter break due to the province’s state-of-emergency and stay-at-home order as part of the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19.

While the province already announced schools in hot zones, including Toronto, York, Peel, Windsor-Essex, and Hamilton, will continue learning from home until at least Feb. 10, an update is expected today regarding a return to school date for the rest of the province.

The return-to-school date is still to be determined and the province has already made changes to enhance safety measures at school for both students and staff.

The Ministry of Education is making masking mandatory for students in Grades 1 through 3. Masking has already been mandatory for students in Grade 4 and above, and is strongly encouraged in the younger grades.

Durham District School Board Director of Education Norah Marsh says masking will still also be encouraged in Kindergarten as part of the updated guidelines.

With so many students learning from home, access to devices has been an issue for some students.

Currently, due to the shortage in computers across the province, Marsh says the DDSB has been deploying one device per family and 1-1 device for Grades 7 to 12.

She adds with the synchronous learning occurring, there may be some sharing of computers.

“We have collected the information in terms of what 1-1 would look like, and we don’t have the supply to satisfy that requirement,” says Marsh.

She notes there are a small percentage of students who are learning in school. As some students with unique special education needs couldn’t access remote learning due to their learning needs, schools have been open for those students.

Marsh adds out of DDSB’s 15,000 students in the IAP, approximately 390 students are learning in-person.

At a recent board meeting, Marsh acknowledged both staff and families for adapting to virtual learning, noting a lot has been learned during this time.

“We have seen come from it some fantastic practice that I think will continue on even after we leave this pandemic behind us,” she says. “This period has flagged for us yet again how important public education is for our community.”