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Durham students to find out when they return to in-person learning

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter

Students in Durham Region are expected to find out when they will be returning to school for in-person learning.

Durham District School Board (DDSB) Director of Education Norah Marsh says she acknowledges and thanks the families as it has been a “very challenging” time.

“As we hear from parents working from home, our staff and others, it’s been challenging trying to be in both worlds,” says Marsh. “We know this shutdown takes a toll on individuals and we very much appreciate all the additional effort they’re doing in terms of making it work and being flexible as we move forward.”

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Monday he wants “all students in all regions back to class.”

Lecce says the chief medical officer of health confirmed he will finalize his advice on Wednesday. The announcement is expected to take place at 4 p.m.

“The Government will provide certainty parents deserve by announcing on Wednesday the dates for reopening,” Lecce states.

He says the health and safety of students, staff and their families is his top priority, noting the fact schools have remained safe and kids have continued to learn during the pandemic is not by accident, but rather, “a reflection of the comprehensive investments and the measures we have put in place following the expert advice of the chief medical officer of health.”

All students started January learning from home for the first week, however, over the past several weeks, the province has sent approximately 520,000 students back to in-person learning.

Durham Region joins 15 other public health units with students still learning remotely.

The province has also announced new enhanced screening measures for students and staff coming to school in the morning, and masking has been made mandatory for students in Grades 1 and 3, including when outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Province-wide targeted asymptomatic testing using both rapid and lab processed tests will also be expanded throughout the province.

According to Lecce, when the asymptomatic testing in schools began, in the province’s hot spots, 63 schools participated and 9,000 tests were completed with approximately 200 new cases identified.

Data showed that under two per cent of all student cases came back positive and the majority of positive cases were found in those outside the school.

“The first phase of this testing has made it easier to track and prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our schools by helping to identify cases early, to inform public health, and ultimately to manage any outbreaks,” says Lecce.


School boards getting additional funding

DDSB Director of Education Norah Marsh says the recent announcement of additional funding coming to school boards from the province will “go a long way in terms of trying to provide stability for families during this time.”

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce recently announced an additional $381 million in targeted funding for school boards across Ontario to further invest in “protecting the health and safety of students.”

Lecce notes a $50 million investment for improving air quality and ventilation in schools, and $65 million for additional health and safety, such as board funded or transportation related PPE or staffing.

Another $62 million is being allocated for summer learning support, including core programming, course upgrades, special education, mental health programs, reading and math programs, stem summer programs, and support for underserviced students.

Furthermore, $60 million will go to online learning, including course packs for elementary remote learning, and $80 million for student devices such as laptops and tablets.

Lecce says, “With this additional funding, Ontario schools are being provided with more than $1.6 billion critical supports to protect the health and safety of our students and our staff, and all our Ontario families.”