KITCHENER -- Students and teachers in southern Ontario are still waiting to find out if they will return to the classroom on Jan. 25.

Aakanksha Mandal, who is Grade 10, hopes her exams in a few weeks will be in-person. She said the last time she took an exam online, she had challenges while asking her teacher a question.

"She took too long and I couldn't finish my exam on time," Mandal said.

The province announced last month that students outside of COVID-19 hotspots would return to in-person learning on Jan. 25, but some now think that might now happen.

"Everybody I talk to is assuming that we're not going back," said Patrick Etmanski, president of the local branch of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association.

The province is expected to make an announcement about the back-to-school plan on Wednesday.

Local union representatives said they wish the province had talked to them before making any decisions.

"It is especially difficult for families caught in this continual circle of waiting for announcements and having to shift from one unrealistic and unsupported expectation to another," said Greg Weiler, president of EFTO-WR.

Rob Gascho with the secondary school union hopes the new plan is more consistent.

"So we don't have this back and forth," he said.

He said everyone wants to go back in person, as long as it could be done safely.

The unions are pushing for smaller class sizes to allow for proper distancing, along with better ventilation and asymptomatic testing.

"We will continue to follow the expert medical advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health to keep students and staff safe," a statement from the Ministry of Education said in part.