Students and teachers in Ontario will head back to the classroom as scheduled on Monday, Global News has learned.
Sources say all Ontario schoolchildren, including elementary and high school, will return to class on Monday.
Last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday, Jan. 17, 2021 was the goal to reopen schools after they were temporarily closed in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19.
The province said while students and teachers pivoted to online learning, officials would work to deploy non-fit-tested N95 respirators for education and child-care staff, high quality three-ply masks cloth masks for students, and additional HEPA filters for classrooms.
The provincial government also said there would also be new screening requirements, new time-limited cohorting protocols and $1.6 billion in new resources for school boards.
What’s more, on Saturday, the provincial government announced it had added extra vaccination clinics in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to help accelerate the vaccination of education and child-care staff.
In an email to Global News Monday evening, Ryan Bird, a spokesperson for the Toronto District School Board, said more than 600,000 non-fit-tested N95 masks had been received by the board and distributed to schools.
What’s more, the email said the screening tool that students and staff must complete each day has been updated and the board now has more than 16,000 HEPA filters, with nearly 300 more on the way.
According to Bird, there are HEPA filters in all occupied classrooms, and there have also been additional vaccine clinics for school staff to receive their booster doses.
The news of schools reopening comes just hours after Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said staffing shortages at schools across the province would be addressed by letting retirees work longer.
In a news release earlier on Monday, the government said it had reached an agreement with the Ontario Teacher’s Federation, which allows retired teachers, principals and vice-principals to work 95 days in an instructional year, up from 50.
The government said the measure would be in effect until June 30.
Ontario reported 9,706 new COVID-19 cases on Monday.
However, officials caution that the daily case counts may now be an underrepresentation of how widely the virus is spreading in the province now that more stringent testing rules have been implemented.
The latest provincial data said that 2,467 people have across Ontario are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. This marks a 48-per cent increase over numbers reported on Sunday.
Of those people, 248 are receiving treatment in an intensive care unit.
To date, 54,734 children aged five to 11 have contracted COVID-19 in Ontario, while 80,256 cases of the virus have been reported in the province in people between 12 and 19 years old.
As of Monday, a total of nine COVID-19 related fatalities have been reported in Ontarians aged 19 and under since the pandemic began.
— with a file from Global News’ Aaron D’Andrea and Ryan Rocca
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