Students across Ontario began a new school term by logging on to virtual classrooms today as COVID-19 cases and hospitalization continue to rise.
Ottawa parent Stephanie Mitton says she's lost count of how many times her eight- and 10-year-old daughters have had to shift to online learning since the pandemic began.
Mitton says she's worried this round will present learning difficulties and mental health challenges, just as previous school closures did.
Guelph, Ont., parent Christina Crowley-Arklie, whose four-year-old son is doing virtual learning for the first time starting today, says she and her husband are planning to take turns keeping their son engaged.
The Ontario government announced the shift to online learning earlier this week, saying the return to in-person learning will take place no earlier than Jan. 17, depending on public health indicators.
Some have criticized the government for announcing the school closure days after Ontario's top doctor said in-person classes would resume today.
Education advocacy group People for Education says the "rapid pace of change and the lack of time for preparation" is taking a toll on school and board staff.
Teachers' unions have called on the province to implement a host of measures to ensure a safe return to classrooms, including prioritizing booster shots for staff, making rapid tests available to everyone in schools, improving ventilation, and continuing case count reporting and tracing at schools.
Ontario reported 11,582 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday but Public Health Ontario notes that the true number is likely higher due to policy changes making testing less accessible. There are 2,081 people in the hospital with COVID-19 and 288 patients in intensive care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
The Canadian Press