According to the province, the positivity rate for the virus among school-aged children "has increased sharply" since November
The province is extending the school lockdown in Ontario elementary schools until January 25. Secondary schools have already been shut down for in-person learning until the 25th.
A statement released by the premier’s office Thursday afternoon says the province will also be extending the general lockdown in Northern Ontario for another 14 days.
The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario called the decision to extend the lockdown in schools “last-minute.”
“Due to the government’s mishandling of the pandemic, the safety of students and educators can simply not be guaranteed in much of the province,” said ETFO president Sam Hammond.
Hammond said the decision will put more pressure on parents and educators who are already stressed out.
The union reiterated its call for reduced class sizes and improvements to school ventilation systems to allow the return of in-person learning as soon as possible.
“We firmly believe that in-person instruction in publicly-funded schools provides the best experience for learning.”
The premier hinted at the extension at a press conference Wednesday to announce a new COVID-19 testing regime for international travellers at Toronto’s Pearson airport.
While schools are not a major source for the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the statement notes “reports of concerning behaviour over the holidays.”
According to the province, the positivity rate for the virus among school-aged children “has increased sharply” since Novemebr.
“Most troubling, the positivity rate for kids aged 12-13 years old increased from 5.44 per cent in late November, early December to nearly 20 per cent in early January.”
The province also announced the expenditure of additional $80 million for laptops and tablets for virtual learning.
Also on Thursday, the province recorded its highest one-day number of COVID cases and deaths since the start of the pandemic back in March.