HPEDSB Students Return to Class beginning next week

The HPEDSB Education Centre. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette Staff)




On advice from the Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, the provincial government announced they are allowing the Hastings Prince Public Health Units and six others to recommence in person learning on Monday.

Local Elementary and Secondary learners in the Hastings and Prince Edward District and Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic School Boards will be amongst the over 100,000 students that will eschew online and virtual classrooms for the genuine article starting next week.

“Getting students back into class is our top priority,” Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education said in a statement. “According to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and leading medical and scientific experts, including the Hospital for Sick Children, Ontario’s schools are safe places for learning. To ensure schools remain safe, the government is introducing additional measures including province-wide targeted asymptomatic testing, enhanced screening, mandatory masking for students in Grades 1-3 and outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained.”

Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board Director of Education Sean Monteith. (Sarah Williams/Gazette Staff)

The PHUs permitted to resume include:

  • Grey Bruce Health Unit
  • Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit
  • Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Health Unit
  • Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
  • Peterborough Public Health
  • Renfrew County and District Health Unit

This means all schools in the following schools boards will resume in-person learning on Monday:

  • Limestone District School Board  
  • Renfrew County District School Board  
  • Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board (HPEDSB)  
  • Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board  
  • Renfrew County Catholic District School Board  
  • Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board  
  • Bluewater District School Board  

“In this ever-changing time of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, I am writing with an update about students returning to school next week,” said Director of Education for HPEDSB Sean Monteith in a statement. “Late yesterday afternoon, the provincial government announced that students in seven public health regions of Ontario will return to in-person school on January 25, 2021. Schools in HPEDSB are in one of the regions approved to open. This decision is fully supported by Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health for Hastings Prince Edward Public Health. Please be aware this is a full return to school on January 25, 2021 for all HPEDSB elementary and secondary students who normally attend in-person school. Our schools will be clean and safe, and staff will be ready to welcome students on Monday.”

Some additional school boards span across multiple PHUs and may have some schools resume in-person learning on Monday and other schools who will continue to teach remotely. The local PHU should be contacted on the status of schools in these boards:

  • Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board  
  • Trillium Lakelands District School Board  
  • Upper Canada District School Board  
  • Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario
  • Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic DSB  
  • Conseil des écoles publiques de l`Est de l`Ontario  
  • Conseil scolaire catholique Providence  
  • Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir  
  • Conseil scolaire de district catholique du Centre-Est de l’Ontario  

On January 12, Ontario announced elementary and secondary students in Windsor-Essex, Region of Peel, Toronto, York Region and Hamilton PHUs will continue to learn remotely. The Ministry of Education, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, will continue to closely monitor public health trends in these regions.

Northern PHUs who were permitted to return to in-person learning on January 11, will continue in-person learning unless otherwise directed by local PHUs. Schools located in all other PHUs across the province will continue to learn remotely at this time.

“To support the return to in-person learning, the government also announced additional safety measures to ensure schools remain safe, including mandatory masking for students in Grades 1-3,” Director Monteith stated. “This will be a new approach at HPEDSB and for that reason, schools will provide masks for these students. Another new measure is the requirement for mandatory masking outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained. I recognize this will be an adjustment for some younger students and ask that parents/guardians practise putting on and taking off a mask with their child at home.”

To support families during this period child care will remain open and available for non-school aged children across the province. Where elementary schools continue to be closed for in-person learning, before and after school programs continue to be closed and prohibited from charging parent fees. Emergency child care will be extended to support those workers that require it during this period.

To support students facing mental health difficulties the Government announced an additional and immediate $10 million from its phase 2 federal funding allocation to support student mental health and expand access to services in both rural and urban communities. This funding builds on the Government’s investment of more than $32.5 million in student mental health since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This investment supports up to 475 additional staff to support student mental health and compliments the addition of 625 school-based public health nurses and expanded mental health education.

“One other topic I want to address is the provincial Stay-at-Home Order announced earlier this month,” expressed Director Monteith “Under it, all businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home. Therefore, we are mandated under the order to have as few people in business offices as possible. That means staff who work in our administrative buildings will continue to work remotely while the order is in place. I want to assure you, according to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and leading medical and scientific experts, including the Hospital for Sick Children, Ontario’s schools are safe places for learning. We will continue to do our best to communicate as soon as we can. Even though the spread of COVID-19 may still present challenges in the future, our school and central office teams are doing all they can to support students and each other. Thank you for your patience and ongoing support.”

In a statement to its membership moments after the Province announced its plan to allow some boards to resume in-class learning, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation and President Harvey Bischoff said the continuing chaos and confusion created by the Minister  Lecce, and the Ontario government has only served to increase the stress and anxiety that many members are feeling.

“This is most apparent to those members who are required to enter schools to support students during the remote learning period or in Northern Ontario school boards where many buildings are open fully to in-person learning,” Bischoff said in a statement. “We know that some educational assistants, office and clerical staff, psychological services workers, custodians, technicians, teachers, and other members of the education team are currently in schools that are considered “closed” by the government. At the same time, many education workers and teachers in some northern school boards have returned to in-person learning.”

Bischoff said concerns about a limited or full return to providing in-person learning, supports and services to students are not isolated to individual schools boards. These issues are province-wide. However, inconsistencies in government planning and school boards left to make decisions on their own without clear Ministry of Education direction has perpetuated confusion and anxiety among our members, students, their families and local communities.

“OSSTF and many other education stakeholders have called on the Minister of Education and the Ford government repeatedly to listen to the voices of frontline educators. They continue to ignore you. We have also called for a full pause to in-person learning until meaningful, clear benchmarks for worker and student safety are established and met,” he added.