By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
An announcement on Thursday from the Ontario Ministry of Education brought mixed emotions in our area with regards to the return-to-school plan for local students.
The Thames Valley District School Board and London District Catholic School Board were among the nine school boards in Ontario that were approved by the OME to return to in-person learning for elementary students effective Monday, February 1, 2021. Secondary students will return to classes on Thursday, February 4, which coincides with the beginning of Quadmester Three.
Local schools which form part of the TVDSB are A. J. Baker Public School in Kintore, West Nissouri Public School in Thorndale, Zorra Highland Park Public School in Embro, Thamesford Public School, Wilberforce Public School in Lucan, Tavistock Public School, and Hickson Central Public School.
In total, the TVDSB is comprised of over 150 schools in and around the City of London.
The Avon Maitland District School Board, which administers public school education in Huron and Perth Counties, was not among the school boards approved to return to class at this time by the Ministry of Education.
Many parents of students at local schools such as St. Marys D.C.V.I., Little Falls Public School, Downie Central Public School, and South Perth Centennial Public School expressed surprise and, in many instances, frustration at the decision for AMDSB schools to remain at home while TVDSB students would return to school.
According to statistics posted online on January 31, 2021, there are 74 active cases of COVID-19 in the Huron Perth Public Health district. At the same time, there were 1,680 active cases of COVID-19 being tracked through the Middlesex-London Health Unit.
Thursday’s announcement from Minister of Education Stephen Lecce did not include detailed rationale behind the choosing of which school boards would return to class, but did emphasize that schools would implement stronger masking protocols to include grades 1-3, expand access to targeted asymptomatic testing, and ensure stricter screening protocols.
“The government agrees with the growing consensus in the medical community that returning students to in-person learning is essential to the wellbeing, development and mental health of children,” said Lecce.
Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent