School board notes: Health unit supports classes shut down until at least Jan. 25

By Kirk Winter

The Ontario government has extended the temporary remote learning period for elementary schools by an additional two weeks while they monitor the ever increasing second wave of COVID-19.

“With the public health trends where they are across the province, our priority remains keeping students, teachers, schools staff and all Ontarians safe. We have to get the numbers down (and this closing) will help us stop the spread of this deadly virus,” Premier Doug Ford said in a press release.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, David Williams, says the positivity rate among school-aged children has increased sharply in recent weeks. As an example, the positivity rate for COVID for kids aged 12 to 13 years old increased from 5.44 per cent in late November and early December to nearly 20 per cent in early January.

Ford’s release said that before the holidays, Ontario was seeing positivity rates of around three per cent.

Williams shared Thursday at his press conference that from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, the positivity rate has increased most dramatically for kids aged four to 11, followed by those aged 12 to 13 and those aged 14 to 17.

This means that Trillium Lakelands District School Board elementary and secondary schools will continue online learning, reopening to in-class learning on Jan. 25 at the earliest.

A school board press release reminds parents that if they have any questions, or if their child requires access to a laptop or internet to support their learning, parents are asked to contact their child’s school directly.

Reminders from public health

The Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit and the Haliburton- Kawartha- Pine Ridge Health Unit support this move to close schools and would like to remind families of the following COVID-19 safety protocols during the lockdown:

  • Limit close contact to your household and stay at least two metres apart from everyone else.
  • Only leave your home for essential reasons, such as work, groceries, pharmacy, health care, etc.
  • Wear a face covering indoors and outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained, or if wearing one is required.
  • Continue to self monitor. If you have any symptoms stay home, even if they are mild.

Internet provider cannot meet demand

Twice during the week of Jan. 4 one of rural Ontario’s largest providers of internet services, Cogeco, crashed for an extended period of time disrupting distance learning for hundreds of TLDSB students and their teachers. Service was lost right across Ontario for most of Jan. 5 and parts of Jan. 8. Some other providers also had outages earlier in the week.

In a phone call with The Advocate a customer service agent sited “unusually high demand for service during a narrow window of hours” being at least partially responsible for the system’s crash.

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