Hamilton in-person classes to stay closed and move to online learning after April break
Catholic board offering asymptomatic testing to students and staff at end of break
Schools in Hamilton, and across Ontario, will move to online learning following the April break, Premier Doug Ford announced Monday.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce described the move as a "sadly necessary" action because of variants and rising case counts, adding the province is committed to returning to in-person learning as soon as it is safe to do so.
Before and after school programs will also be closed, but child care for non-school age children will remain open. The province also said it is also providing. free emergency childcare for school-aged children of eligible health-care and front-line workers.
A specific date for when students and staff could expect to return to class was not provided.
More than 30 new cases of COVID-19 were reported at Hamilton schools over the weekend as students and staff begin the April break.
The Hamilton-Wentworth Distrct School Board logged 14 more cases Sunday, following eight the day before.
The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, meanwhile, saw eight more yesterday and one on April 10. There are 36 active cases among students and five among staff, according to the Catholic board's COVID-19 advisory page.
École élémentaire Pavillon de la jeunesse, a French-language elementary school in Hamilton, was closed on April 3 on the recommendation of public health officials, after eight students and four staff members tested positive, according to the Viamond School Board. One student at École secondaire Georges-P.-Vanier has also contracted the virus.
Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton's medical office of health, said she was "very glad" for the province's decision, adding managing school cases was becoming challenging.
"Consistency across the province" will be a "good thing," said Richardson.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger described the decision to move to remote learning as an "opportunity to minimize the spread of this virus" as "we are seeing more and more cases in the school setting."
WATCH | Ford explains school closure decision:
The province's announcement followed a letter Lecce shared on Sunday stating schools will remain open during the province's stay-at-home order, except in regions where public health units ordered remote learning.
Families with Hamilton's public school board were expecting to find out whether the board would move to full remote learning on Thursday, April 15.
Before the break began, students were asked to bring their personal belongings home with them.
Official Opposition NDP Leader and Hamilton Centre MPP Andrea Horwath criticized Lecce, saying the school closures could have been avoided had the province spent more money to reduce class sizes and improve school ventilation.
"My heart just goes out to families, I just can't believe we're in this situation again," she told reporters on Monday afternoon.
Horwath also referenced the high case counts in Hamilton schools.
Richardson said, even though families are facing a stay-at-home order and online learning, they should try to find ways for children to connect virtually with friends, rather than meeting them in-person, even if it's at a park.
The Catholic board has also announced it's offering asymptomatic testing at the following sites for students and staff members at various schools when the break ends.
April 15, 2021, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
St. John Henry Newman Catholic Secondary School
127 Gray Rd., Stoney Creek L8G 3V1
April 16, 2021, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Cathedral High School
30 Wentworth St. N., Hamilton L8L 8H5
April 17, 2021, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School
1824 Rymal Rd. E., Hannon L0R 1P0
More details can be found on the board's website.
Asymptomatic testing will also be taking place at Nora Frances Henderson Secondary School from 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. on April 15, according to the public board.
Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in schools can help protect students and their families, teachers, staff, and the broader community. Participation is voluntary and consent is required for students under 18 years old. <br><br>Details about our next location: <a href="https://t.co/0FVMBwq3c5">https://t.co/0FVMBwq3c5</a> <a href="https://t.co/VdGVpqL8P3">pic.twitter.com/VdGVpqL8P3</a>—@HWDSB
with files from Christine Rankin and Bobby Hristova