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Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce speaks in the legislature, on Sept. 14, 2020.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Ontario students could get an extended winter break or start classes remotely in the new year as the province considers ways to reduce COVID-19 transmission after the holidays.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he’s talking to health officials and “looking at solutions that may include some period out of class” at the beginning of January, but has not yet made a decision.

Lecce says he will announce a plan in the next week or two to allow parents to prepare.

Last Friday, a spokeswoman for the minister said the province was not considering any change to the school year calendar.

That’s after the Council of Ontario Directors of Education said it had proposed starting the new semester with virtual schooling to allow students and staff to self-isolate after any potential holiday celebrations.

Ontario is reporting 1,249 new cases of COVID-19 today, and 12 new deaths due to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 569 cases are in Toronto, 256 in Peel Region and 94 in York Region.

The province also reported 133 new COVID-19 cases related to schools, including at least 73 among students.

Those bring the number of schools with a reported case to 670 out of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools.

In the province’s long-term care homes, 700 residents currently have COVID-19 and three new deaths have been reported today.

The province says 108 of its 626 long-term care homes are experiencing an outbreak.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Dr. Theresa Tam say COVID-19 is on a runaway rise in most of the country as the seasons for both holidays and colds and flu approach. They say strict public health rules might help but nothing is more important than following those rules and being extra cautious about spreading contagion — especially if people hope to have any sort of gatherings at Christmas.

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