SIMCOE – Haldimand-Norfolk students will be amongst 13 public health unit regions returning to school for in-person learning on Monday, Feb. 8.

“As we know, the January coronavirus figures were quite worrisome,” said Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett. “We now see trends heading in a better direction, and the opening of our schools is supported by all area medical officers of health.”

The decision for students to return in the Haldimand-Norfolk and Brant health unit regions was made following the medical advice and support of both Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and local Medical Officers of Health.

The focus remains on protecting students and staff, which is why tougher measures were introduced and new investments made to keep schools safe and keep kids learning.

To support the safe return of in-person learning province-wide, the province introduced new and tougher measures to continue to protect kids and staff against COVID-19 in the classroom, including:
• Province-wide access to targeted asymptomatic testing for students and staff;
• Higher quality masks and a mandatory requirement for masking for students in Grades 1-3, including outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained;
• Enhanced screening of secondary students and staff;
• New guidance discouraging students from congregating before and after school;
• The temporary certification of eligible teacher candidates who are set to graduate in 2021 to stabilize staffing levels, following high levels of absenteeism;
• The Ministry of Education, in conjunction with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, has confirmed that all PHUs will reopen with access to antigen testing to complement the existing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) lab testing capacity that was scaled up and made available to all health units in January. Health units can use these tests if they choose.

An additional $381 million was allocated to prioritize safe and quality learning in schools, including the hiring of additional staff, improving air quality and ventilation in schools, supporting online learning, and promoting student mental health. With this additional funding, schools are being provided with more than $1.6 billion in critical supports to protect against the spread of COVID-19, all of which has ensured Ontario leads the way with the most comprehensive plan.

The government will continue to follow expert medical advice, monitoring local trends and data, and stand by ready to act.

For more information, contact MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446 or toby.barrett@pc.ola.org