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Students attending schools located in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit must remain learning remotely at home, while those in the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit can return to schools on Jan. 25.
That means, for instance, that South Edwardsburg Public School in Johnstown is open Monday, while 18 kilometres further along the Saint Lawrence River, Iroquois Public School will be closed.
The situation is further complicated at the Upper Canada board because high schools in the areas allowed to open for in-person classes on Jan. 25 will instead remain closed until Feb. 2 to allow students to finish their semester without disruption or a change in class cohorts.
The boundaries must be drawn somewhere, of course. It makes sense to use public health units because local medical officers of health can issue health-related orders in their jurisdictions in addition to any rules imposed by the province. The medical officer of health in Windsor-Essex, for example, ordered all schools closed in that district for a week before the Christmas break because COVID-19 cases were rising rapidly.
It creates complications for the school boards, though, and for parents. For example, children who live in a no-schools-open health unit area but attend school in an area where schools are open can go back to class, the Upper Canada District School Board explained in the letter.
It’s a similar situation at the two French-language boards that operate schools in Ottawa and surrounding rural areas and at the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. Some schools may open on Monday, while others will remain closed. School board websites will post that information.
The province did not explain how it chose the seven regions that can reopen schools, other than saying the decision was made on the basis of advice from the province’s chief medical officer of health.
But all seven regions have relatively low rates of COVID-19, with fewer than 40 cases a week per 100,000 population, notes Ryan Imgrund, a high school teacher and biostatistician who has acted as a consultant for Ottawa Public Health. He posts daily statistical updates on Twitter.
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