Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
Sale ends in
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
save over $140
// //
Ontario will reopen the majority of its shuttered schools on Monday, while those in Toronto, Peel Region and York Region will resume in-person learning the following week. The Canadian Press

Ontario will reopen all its elementary and secondary schools to in-person learning over the next two weeks even as concern grows about the emergence of more contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said on Wednesday that schools in all regions, except for Toronto, Peel and York, would resume in-class learning on Monday. Schools in those three remaining hard-hit areas would reopen on Feb. 16, he said.

Ontario is the only province that has kept many of its schools closed to in-person learning, and Mr. Lecce said his government was “cautiously” and “gradually” reopening buildings. Students in 18 out of 35 public-health units in the province have returned to classrooms since the December holiday break, including those in Ottawa and London, who were back on Monday.

Story continues below advertisement

“I want to be clear: If things change, if trends move in the wrong direction, we will not hesitate to act, following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health,” Mr. Lecce said at a news conference.

There are few more polarizing issues in the pandemic than keeping schools open. There is no conclusive evidence regarding transmission in schools, and public-health officials are unsure how the arrival of new variants will affect schools.

Mr. Lecce said his government introduced new measures so students can return to the classroom. Among them, students in Grades 1 to 3 will be required to wear masks, not just those in Grades 4 and up. Several boards, including Toronto and Halton, had already mandated masks for all students in the fall.

He also said the government enhanced screening guidelines for entry into school buildings, which several boards previously had in place. Further, Mr. Lecce said there would be an expansion of testing for students and staff that would be directed by local public-health units.

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said that while the measures will help, they are “not sufficient,” especially with the new variants spreading in Ontario. “Schools still need smaller classes, mandatory masking for kindergarten and … portable air purification units in every classroom,” Mr. Hammond said.

Some doctors and families have put pressure on the government in recent weeks to reopen schools. The province’s largest pediatric hospitals recently said in an updated guidance document that delays in reopening schools are harmful to the social, developmental and academic achievement of children.

Lawrence Loh, Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Peel, west of Toronto, said his area is seeing levels of community transmission where the benefits of having children in school outweigh the risks, given the health and safety measures put in place. The province emphasized on Wednesday that public-health units would have the authority to close schools to in-person learning based on their local circumstances.

Story continues below advertisement

Janine McCready, an infectious-diseases physician at Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital, said it is difficult to know what to expect with variants circulating in the community, but to keep schools open, it is important to strictly adhere to health and safety protocols.

“If we open schools, that doesn’t mean that everything else is open,” Dr. McCready said. “We’re keeping other things closed to drive the rates down so that we can keep the schools open.”

Dr. McCready is spearheading a pilot program at Grenoble Public School in Toronto’s Flemingdon Park, a pocket of high-rises that is home to many new immigrants. Ten school staff members started the program on Wednesday where they are building expertise in infection control and protection practices to share with staff, families and students. “With COVID and what we’ve found in the hospitals and long-term care is that you can always do more,” Dr. McCready said.

Further, she and her team are looking to provide schools in the area with take-home testing kits to make testing easier for families when their children have symptoms. All families would need to do is administer a non-invasive test at home and drop off the swab at an assessment centre.

Mikki Hymus, the principal at Grenoble, said her school, which typically has roughly 1,000 students, now has only about 500 attending in-person. The rest have opted for online learning.

“When this opportunity came, we jumped on it because we want to do better. We want to see how we can improve and how we can assure our community and re-establish that trust,” she said.

Story continues below advertisement

With a report from Stefanie Marotta

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies