KITCHENER -- The deadline for families and students in the Waterloo Region to decide between in-person and virtual learning for the next school year is being extended, the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) says.

Families had previously been told by the board they had until 4 p.m. Monday to make their decision.

But Tuesday afternoon, Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced all schools will offer both in-person and virtual learning for the entire 2021-22 school year and families won’t have to decide between the two before June 1.

“There’s some light at the end of this darkness as we look forward, but the truth is what we heard is parents want the choice for this September,” he said. “What I can confirm is we are ensuring every board in Ontario will provide that choice of virtual learning experience.

"While we all want in-class learning to return this spring, we will not take risks with your child as we respond to high ratest of COVID-19 in the community, intesive care units overwhelmed, and variants seamlessly entering from our international borders."

Students moved to online learning after April break. Lecce said there's still a date on when in-person learning might resume.

"They're still closed because we need to see the rate of cases go down further," said Ontario health minister Christine Elliot. "We have seen a lessening of case rates in the last severaly days, but that doesn't mean there's a trend."

As a result of Lecce’s announcement, the WRDSB is extending its deadline for families to choose their preferred learning route. No final date has been set.

“Staff are reviewing the implications of this recent announcement,” reads a statement on the WRDSB’s website. “We will be providing further updates to families in the coming days.”

Waterloo Region teachers' unions are hoping for more notice from the province if and when in-class learning resumes this school year.

"The last time this happened the minister changed his mind the following day," said Patrick Etmanski of Waterloo Region OECTA.

With files from