Kitchener-Waterloo

Waterloo region students told to prepare in case learning goes online after April break

Despite the move to online learning in other areas of Ontario, students in Waterloo region remain in the classroom this week, but the region's medical officer of health says that could change if case rates rise.

Public health will work with school boards to give 'as much notice as possible,' says Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang

Jessica Lui helps her son with his online classroom. The Waterloo region's medical officer of health says parents and students should plan for a possible move to online learning after the April break. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Students in Waterloo region face the possibility of switching to online learning after the April break if COVID-19 case numbers rise, the region's medical officer of health warns.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said students remained in class in the region as other areas of Ontario moved to online learning, but local health officials will continue to monitor case numbers.

"Communities across Ontario have begun to see case rates escalate quickly," Wang said in a statement emailed to CBC K-W. "Our case rates have also started to increase in the last couple of days and we are at risk for the rapid acceleration seen in other communities.

"Parents and schools should prepare for the possibility that there may be the need to switch to online learning following the April break."

Wang said any decision wouldn't be made lightly. But if case rates rise and with variants of concern circulating in the community, "more children and adults will acquire COVID-19, and this will lead to impacts for schools."

She said she understands parents and educators want to be able to prepare for any move to online learning, so public health will work with school boards to give "as much notice as possible."

Other regions already moved to online

In neighbouring Wellington County and Guelph, students moved to online learning on Wednesday, after Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health medical officer of health Dr. Nicola Mercer issued a Sec. 22 order to close schools on Tuesday.

"I wish this step was not required," Mercer said in the release. "I know the tremendous burden this places on families in our region."

The order did not impact child care in public schools.

Peel Region and Toronto also saw schools closed.

Meanwhile, local teachers' unions are joining calls to the province to vaccinate educational staff during the April break.

Rob Gascho, president of district 24 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, says the policy should be "virtual till vaccinated."

He said the union believes in-person learning "is by far better for students; however, schools must be safe."

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