Waterloo Region students not going back to classroom next week
KITCHENER -- Students in Waterloo Region won't return to the classroom next week.
On Wednesday afternoon, the provincial government released a list of regions and school boards that would resume in-person learning on Jan. 25.
Neither Region of Waterloo or Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph were included in that list.
On Thursday, the WRDSB said students would remain at home until at least Feb. 10.
Officials with the public school board said they'll have a self-screening system in place for school staff next week, along with a similar system for high school students.
Medical Officer of Health Dr, Hsiu-Li Wang said additional safety measures will be in place when schools do allow students back.
"That is including masking for Grade 1 to 3, which we were already doing in the region with our two largest boards, and requirements for mask wearing outdoors, enhanced screening protocols and expanded target testing," she said.
The Catholic school board said it's grateful that the province made a decision and everyone can now plan for a few more weeks.
The Catholic school board said they're waiting on more timelines and decisions from the province. They expect to know more in about a week.
Grade 4 student Emily Noble said there are some perks to virtual learning, like peace and quiet.
"Instead of all these people in my class screaming or yelling or doing whatever," Noble said.
Her mom, Jennifer Noble, said she's glad the province decided to keep most students out of the classroom for a while longer.
"I'd rather them be safe right now at home with distance learning," Jennifer said.
Others are eager for in-person learning to resume.
"I feel that she is safe at school," Mandi Wonnacott said. "She hasn't come home with any symptoms."
Wonnacott, like many parents, is pulling double duty with her child at home.
"I've had to take a lot of time off of work, obviously, to be home with her," she said.
The province said the decision on sending kids back varied between regions.
"If the community infection rate is high, that's where it comes into the schools," said Associate Medial Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe.
Local teachers' unions said they're disappointed.
"I think it's a disaster," said Patrick Etmanski, president of local Catholic elementary teachers' union. "I think they mishandled it."
Etmanski said Wednesday's announcement felt rushed. The union representatives said they're all looking for more information.
"There's a lot of questions to be answered," Etmanski said. "Teachers are looking for a place at the table, to be part of the conversation."
Greg Weiler with the public teachers' union said he was "disappointed in the way the government chose to communicate."
"At this point, there is still no indication when anyone will be provided with further information about when a decision will be made or communicated going forward," a statement from Weiler said in part.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said children currently learning from home will likely stay there until Feb. 10, but that could change based on advice from public health officials.
"Public Health is supportive of the extension of on-line learning for Waterloo Region schools, and of the additional measures announced yesterday to further protect our schools and support the return to in-person learning," a statement from Dr. Wang said in part. "I appreciate it’s a difficult decision to determine when in-person learning may resume; many families are concerned about returning and many are feeling strained managing online learning. Our local situation remains serious and our understanding of the provincial announcement is that the Ministry of Education has determined that Waterloo Region schools will continue on-learning for the time being."
Prior to the province's announcement, WDG Public Health Dr. Nicola Mercer Medical Officer of Health said students in that health unit would continue online learning until at least Feb. 1.
“I know everyone wants schools open for in-person learning as soon as it is safe,” Dr. Mercer said in a news release. “Teachers and parents are keenly aware of the value our children get from being able to gather together with their teachers and classmates and the pressure that remote learning places on educators and families. I share these sentiments.”
Dr. Mercer acknowledged that cases are declining in the region, but they said they "are simply not there yet."
With reporting by CTV News Kitchener's Heather Senoran