Students are dropped off at school ahead of their first day of classes in Pickering, Ont., Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Students are dropped off at school ahead of their first day of classes in Pickering, Ont., Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Thousands of students return to schools as new COVID-19 cases emerge

Experts say returning to class is important for children’s social and academic development

Thousands more students returned to class under new pandemic precautions Tuesday, as public health officials in Ottawa said they were assessing the risk to 200 students and staff linked to a handful of cases.

The staggered start opened doors to elementary and high school students in six provinces where a host of COVID-19 protocols have reimagined everything from seating to lunch breaks to the playground.

But the reopening came with news of cases at five French-language Catholic schools in Ottawa, where some students returned earlier this month.

Ottawa public health says people connected to four elementary schools and one high school tested positive after catching the virus outside of the school setting. They say 193 students and seven staff members were told late Monday night to stay home.

The cases emerge as Premier Doug Ford’s government continues to face criticism over its back-to-school plan, especially class sizes.

However, Ontario is among the provinces offering a mix of in-person classes and online learning for students who opt to stay home.

In some provinces, remote learning is limited to those with medical conditions.

ALSO READ: Lots to learn in COVID-19 orientation week for B.C. schools

Ontario’s education minister says he understands students, parents and teachers are concerned about the reopening.

Experts say returning to class is important for children’s social and academic development.

“If we continue to follow public health advice … I do believe that students can return to a safe and positive environment,” Stephen Lecce said in an interview.

Ontario’s four major teachers’ unions have appealed to the province’s labour board alleging the school reopening plan violates workplace safety laws.

Other boards in Ontario have delayed their restart over the next two weeks, with the country’s largest, the Toronto District School Board, set to begin a staggered opening next Tuesday.

Class also resumed in Manitoba and Saskatchewan with officials discouraging students from venturing outside cohort groups to minimize contact with others.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, Education Minister Tom Osborne says the majority of $13 million in federal school funding has gone to address busing.

Osborne says $10 to $11 million will go towards contracting additional bus services to allow for more space between students travelling to school.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEducation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo)
After several years in limbo, Parkland Manor to be torn down

Rimoka Housing Foundation has received funding and approval for the demolition

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

Kyla Gibson with her boyfriend Gavin Hardy. (Photo used with permission)
Sylvan Lake couple lose ‘fur babies’ to house fire

‘They were our world and nothing will ever replace them,’ Kyla Gibson said of her three pets

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Hinshaw says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

(Photo submitted)
Community Futures brings back Social Media Challenge for 2021

This time the challenge is for non-profits and community groups

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Central Alberta teenager donates filled 20 backpacks to Red Deer Mustard Seed

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County says he ‘just wants to help people’

Most Read