Ontario to reopen most schools on Monday, Toronto, Peel, York on Feb. 16

·2 min read

TORONTO — 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.

Students in 13 public health units, including Hamilton and Windsor, will return to physical classrooms on Feb. 8.

The province said schools in Toronto, Peel and York regions will resume in-person learning on Feb. 16.

It had previously said all students currently learning online could return to physical classrooms by Feb. 10

Education Minster Stephen Lecce said the province made its reopening decisions based on advice from local medical officers of health and Ontario's top doctor.

"We have seen a consistent decline in key transmission rates and with the full support of the chief medical officer of health ... Ontario is ready to reopen our schools because it's safe," he said.

Lecce said the province will continue to monitor COVID-19 trends and take further action if necessary.

"If things change in the wrong direction, we will not hesitate to follow the advice of the chief medical officer of health," he said.

All students in Ontario began January with online learning as part of a provincial lockdown.

The province then took a staggered approach to reopening schools, allowing those in northern Ontario and rural areas to resume in-person learning first.

The province said Wednesday that individual public health units continue to reserve the authority to close schools to in-person learning based on local circumstances.

Lecce said the province has added a number of safety measures and allocated $341 in federal funding to enhance safety in schools for students, teachers and other education workers.

The federal funds will be given to school boards for a variety of measures including to hire more cleaning staff, buy personal protective equipment, and enhance air filtration in schools.

The province will also conduct asymptomatic school testing across the province, with capacity to complete 25,000 lab tests, and 25,000 antigen rapid tests per week.

The province has not said how long it will take to reach those numbers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2021.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press