Hamilton schools to remain closed for in-person learning until Feb. 10

·2 min read

Hamilton schools will remain closed to in-person learning until Feb. 10 — about a month after they were initially set to reopen — as the province further tightens restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“As I’ve said from the beginning, when it comes to our children, I will not take any unnecessary risks,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Schools in other hot spots for the virus — Windsor-Essex, Peel, Toronto and York — will also remain closed.

Ford said the chief medical officer of health is expected to provide recommendations for the remaining regions — which are still set to reopen on Jan. 25 — by Jan. 20.

The extended school closures were announced as the province declared a state of emergency and issued a 28-day stay-at-home order effective on Thursday at 12:01 a.m.

Also part of the province’s announcement are new health and safety measures for students across Ontario, including mandatory masking for students in Grades 1 to 3, masking outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained, enhanced screening protocols and “expanded targeted testing.” Masking of the younger students was already a rule in place at both the Hamilton public and Catholic school boards.

“We are seeing higher levels of children with COVID,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Tuesday.

She said extended closures not only serve to keep kids safe, but they also have an effect on mobility.

“If children are home, it changes the parents’ behaviour, as well, so it achieves two purposes,” she said. “I know it’s not ideal to have children out of school for long periods of time. We do want them to go back as soon as they can, but their safety is paramount and we always have to err on the side of safety when it comes to our children.”

Daycares for non-school-aged kids will remain open across the province. Emergency child-care centres for front-line workers will remain open until Feb. 9 in the five COVID hot spots, including Hamilton. They are currently slated to be open until Jan. 22 in the rest of the province.

Before- and after-school programs will be allowed to restart once kids return to the physical classroom.

This is the second time this year the planned start date for Hamilton schools has been pushed back. The province announced last week that Ontario schools, which were initially set to reopen after the winter break on Jan. 11, would remain closed for in-person attendance for an additional two weeks.

Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator