Ontario Extends Teacher-Led Online Learning Until January 25 to Keep Students and Staff Safe in Southern Ontario

Published on January 07, 2021

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate throughout the province, the government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, is extending certain measures to keep students, education staff, and residents across Ontario safe.  

The Chief Medical Office of Health has released new data that seriously concerns the government. There is a high level of COVID-19 transmission in many parts of the province, with over half of the regions in Ontario reporting a rate of over 100 cases per 100,000 people. The provincial positivity rate is also high at 7%, well above the 2.5%-3% provincial threshold, with some regions as high as 13.9%.  

The government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, has made the difficult decision for the seven public health unit regions in Northern Ontario to remain in shutdown until at least January 23, 2021, aligning with the shutdown in Southern Ontario.

The impacts of these time-limited measures throughout the province will be evaluated throughout these 14 days to determine if it is safe to lift any restrictions or if they need to be extended.

These time-limited measures are being taken to reinforce that Ontarians should stay at home as much as possible and must not gather indoors with individuals outside of the people they live with to minimize transmission of the virus and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. 

In the nearly two weeks since Ontario was moved into a Provincewide Shutdown, trends in key public health indicators have continued to worsen in both Northern and Southern Ontario, including concerning trends in health system capacity, most notably in our hospitals. 

  • Since the Shutdown was implemented on December 26, 2020, Northern Ontario has seen an additional 3 hospitalizations for COVID-19, and an additional 9 hospitalizations since September 1 (at which time there were zero). During this period of time Northern Ontario has also seen 1 additional COVID-19 patient admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) and has seen an additional 4 ICU admissions since September 1 (at which time there were zero). 
  • Northern Ontario currently has 9 COVID-19 patients requiring acute care, 4 patients in ICU, with 2 on a ventilator. Acute hospital occupancy (total patients) in Algoma Public Health and Public Health Sudbury & Districts are at over 90 per cent. 

It remains critically important that all Ontarians continue following public health advice to protect our communities and most vulnerable populations, and to stop the spread of COVID-19.  

 Education:  

While our schools remain safe and rates of transmission in them are low, rates are rising in the communities and therefore we play an important role in the solution by limiting the amount of movement and spread of COVID-19. 

We remain firmly committed to getting students back into class as soon as possible. However, the best medical and scientific experts have been clear: while schools have been safe places for kids, the sharp rise in community transmission puts that progress and Ontario families at risk. 

Based on advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health officials, we have announced the extended closure of publicly funded and private schools in southern PHUs until January 25, 2021. Elementary students and secondary students in the 7 Northern Ontario public health regions will proceed with returning to in-person learning on January 11, 2021. 

During this time, students will remain engaged in live teacher-led online learning, and have access to enhanced mental health and technology supports. 

As part of our Government’s efforts to protect the most vulnerable, boards will be required to make provisions for in-school learning for students with special education needs. 

Our aim is to continue supporting those impacted hardest by the COVID-19 outbreak — Ontario families. 

We are providing new financial support for families in the COVID-19 era by expanding the Support for Learners program to include secondary students – applications will open on January 11. 

We are expanding eligibility for the emergency child care program for a broader number of frontline health and safety workers. 

We understand the impacts of kids during this difficult time, which is why we are investing up to $10 million in support of mental health, including an up to $1-million increase in funding to Kids Help Phone. The Ministry of Education is also developing a mental health module for students. 

The Minister of Education will continue working with the Chief Medical Officer of Health to get kids back into class as soon as possible, with expanded asymptomatic testing and additional investments to keep kids safe. 

We are taking proactive and preventative action to protect schools following the holiday break so we can open schools safely as soon as possible. 

For news release, click here

For more information on the provincewide shutdown, click here