Elementary and high schools in the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board reopened for in-person learning after Monday’s winter, and after a delayed return because of COVID safety concerns.
The Ontario government had announced right after the Christmas break that students would learn remotely amid the spike of the Omicron variant for two weeks. The plan was to start in-class education on Monday, however the snowstorm that day blocked roads all around the city and disrupted all forms of transportation.
“While delays are still possible, students and staff will more easily be able to travel to schools/sites given significant plowing operations underway in the GTA,” the TDSB said on the official website.
“We have made the decision to re-open all schools to in-person learning for Wed. Jan. 19.”
Some high-school students were pleased to have an extra two days of storm holiday when schools stayed closed on Tuesday. Even though they were enjoying the snow, students who spoke with Humber News said that they missed the in-person school because they missed their friends.
Louna, a high school student, said that she has been happy with the snow, friends and holidays. Another student, Ashley, said she had “no reason to stay home anymore due to the storm,” said on Tuesday.
Serpil Cengiz, a mother of two with children in grades five and eight, said she was pleased that children were back in school.
“While they are studying at home, they can fall asleep in front of the computer or they get bored from the class and spend time with their iPad,” Cengiz said.
“They receive more systematic and disciplined education at school face to face.”
Cengiz said that in-person education does not worry her.
“We should not postpone our lives for a disease that might continue for years,” she said.
Betul Karayel, who has twin sons in kindergarten, said that she has been very content with TDSB’s back-to-school decision.
”My sons do not know the English language. Therefore, they could not understand their teacher during virtual classes at all. Since they could not understand the content, they did not want to listen to their teacher. In-person education and face-to-face friendship with their friends would be more effective in learning English for my sons,” Karayel said.
Like many parents, Karayel expects TDSB to provide necessary precautions against the pandemic at schools. ”I am worried” she said. ”I want the TDSB to make sure that schools are well sterilized, social distance is being practised and air ventilation systems work as required.”
Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore published an open letter for Ontarian parents and ensured them a safe return to school.
“Ontario students and children have benefitted from continuous efforts to protect schools and childcare settings, including high-quality masks, enhanced cleaning and improvements in air ventilation in every school – with more than 70,000 HEPA filter units and other ventilation devices deployed,” Lecce and Moore said in the letter.
Lecce and Moore said that for some specific schools, parents are going to receive a form in the coming days offering the opportunity to safely and conveniently provide public health units with the authority to vaccinate their children at a school-based vaccine clinic.
“These clinics are in addition to many options available to families including through mass vaccination clinics, pharmacies and through primary care,” they said.