Ontario Changes Return to Classroom Plans As COVID-19 Surges

The Ontario government has announced changes in the return to classroom plans due to a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases across the province. According to the new plan, students will not return to classrooms. They will need to learn virtually until Jan 17th, 2021. In a news conference on Monday morning, Premier Doug Ford announced the school closures. He shared about the new restrictions imposed by the government to control the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19.

He said, "We need to prioritize the continued health and safety of our kids and our school staff. As a result, we will be delaying the return to in-class learning for the next two weeks and continue with virtual learning for the duration of the time away. I know this isn't the news anyone wants to hear, but with a new variant, the ground is shifting every single day."

The students have been home for the past two weeks due to the holiday break, and they were looking forward to getting back to school. Things have changed for them as the Premier said that private and publicly funded schools will move to remote learning from Jan 5th to Jan 17th, 2022, subject to operational considerations and public health trends.

It was also highlighted that school buildings would be allowed to open for offering in-person instructions for students with special education needs that can't be accommodated remotely. The school buildings can also remain open for childcare operations.

The province also shared that free emergency childcare will be offered to school-aged children of all the eligible frontline workers, like healthcare workers.

ETFO or the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, the union representing the elementary school educators in Ontario, had supported renewed calls for "safety measures and a sustainable return to in-person learning." It also welcomed the Premier's decision and said it is safer and additional action is still required.

In addition to sharing the school-related restrictions, Ford also said that the government is reverting to Stage-2 style restrictions for the upcoming three weeks. According to the new restrictions, social gatherings need to be limited to 10 people outdoors and five people indoors.

Businesses will need to ensure that employees work from home unless it's critical for them to be on site. Retail stores and personal care services would need to be limited to 50 percent capacity and food courts closed. Even at shopping malls, physical distancing will be mandatory in lineups. Cinemas, theatres, museums, and indoor event spaces will also be closed.

All non-urgent surgeries will be put on hold so that COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization can get a bed easily. It will add 8,000 to10,000 surgeries a week to the long-existing waitlist. The time-limited restrictions will go into effect from Wednesday at 12:01 a.m.

What do you think of Ontario's plans for the schools and new restrictions that have been shared? Let us know in the comments section.

To know the latest update on restrictions due to the Omicron variant, click here.

To know which masks can offer the best protection, click here.




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