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What we know — and don’t know — about Hamilton’s return to the classroom

·2 min read

Hamilton school boards are waiting to hear from the province on whether students will be back in classrooms on Feb. 11.

Kids are currently learning remotely — under a 28-day stay-at-home order issued by the province in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 — until at least Feb. 10.

In an email to The Spectator, Catholic board chair Pat Daly said he’s been told in calls with Ministry of Education officials that they hope to provide information “as early as possible next week” to help boards prepare.

Daly said the ministry has indicated “they are going to give boards as much notice as possible.”

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board said they’re preparing for Feb. 11 as the date students will return to in-person learning, but hope the ministry would provide “as much notice as possible” should the province announce a further extension to remote learning.

Last week, the city’s public board penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Doug Ford and Mayor Fred Eisenberger calling for clarity for families and educators in school reopening plans.

“We’ve had a pattern of communication from the government ... where we’ve had fairly late notice for a number of decisions that really impact families,” board chair Dawn Danko said in a Jan. 20 interview with The Spectator. “We need time to plan and prepare.”

The province announced on Jan. 20 that students in Halton, Brantford, Haldimand and Norfolk, among others, would not return to in-person learning on Jan. 25, as previously planned. Schools in seven public health units, including Grey Bruce, Kingston and Peterborough, were given the go-ahead to reopen.

“We’re watching all of the others as well very carefully,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said in a Jan. 21 news conference.

In the letter, the HWDSB also asked the province for pandemic pay for educators “attending in-person at a physical school” — many since Jan. 4 — to recognize “the elevated risk” to staff supporting students with special needs in schools during the remote-learning period.

“We have yet to hear an official response from our letter to the three levels of government,” said HWDSB spokesperson Shawn McKillop in an email to The Spectator.

Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator