French people

Winter storm turns first day of in-person classes in Ontario and Quebec into a snowy day

In Montreal on Monday, all English and French schools were closed in the face of a winter storm warning

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TORONTO — Many school boards across Ontario were scrambling to adjust their school reopening plans on Monday as a winter storm blanketed much of the province’s southern and eastern regions in snow.

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District school boards in Toronto, York, Halton, Hamilton-Wentworth and Ottawa-Carleton were among those to cancel the planned return to classroom learning because heavy snowfall forced a halt to school services. school buses.

Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the National Capital Region, warning that 40 centimeters of snow could fall by Monday evening.

The National Weather Agency predicts 15 to 25 centimeters for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas.

To Montreal, all primary and secondary schools in the two English school boards and three French language service centers in Montreal were to close on Monday.

In Quebec, Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning of 15 to 25 centimeters of snow and high winds for the Montreal Island region as well as Chateauguay, Laval and Longueuil.

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In Ontario, Environment Canada has issued snowfall or blizzard warnings for part of the province stretching from the Cornwall region to the east, the Algonquin region to the west, and the Niagara and London to the south.

As much as 50 centimeters of snow is expected in some areas, and the weather agency is warning residents to be careful given the risk of reduced visibility on the road.

Dozens of flights to and from Toronto Pearson Airport were also delayed or canceled this morning, according to the airport’s website.

Snowfall in southern Ontario has added a major wrinkle to the province’s already controversial school reopening plan.

The province switched to online learning after the winter break, so schools not closed by snow will reopen for the first time in nearly a month.

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During this time, soaring COVID-19 cases have overwhelmed Ontario’s testing system and led to staffing shortages across the workforce, resulting in changes policies that will also affect the situation in schools.

Gold standard PCR tests are no longer available to the general public and are now reserved for those at higher risk of severe illness, so the province is only offering them to students who develop symptoms of COVID-19 at the school.

The Department of Education instead sends two rapid antigen tests home with each student, to be used if they develop symptoms outside the classroom.

Parents will no longer be notified if someone in their child’s class tests positive for the virus.

Instead, the province plans to post truancy information online starting next week, and parents will be notified if 30% of a school’s staff and students are absent for any reason.

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The province is also sending N95 masks to teachers and three-ply medical masks to students.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said educators have mixed feelings about returning to the classroom.

“I’ve heard from members across the province who are experiencing a range of emotions as they prepare to resume in-person learning or continue to support students who cannot be accommodated through remote learning. ETFO President Karen Brown said in a written statement.

“Some members are enthusiastic and feel safe, others are cautiously optimistic and some are anxious.”

Lambton-Kent District School Board Kindergarten and Grade 1 teacher Erika Lopes said that while she misses seeing her students in person, the thought of returning to class stresses her out.

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“I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night, just because I’m very stressful and anxious. So it’s all in my head,” she said. “And when I’m lying there at night, I think: Ok, how am I going to do this?”

Kindergarten students aren’t required to wear masks and keeping physical distance while teaching is difficult — especially, she said, because her board’s plan to deal with staff absences is to merge the classes.

“On the one hand, you’re telling us to keep them all separate, not let them play together right now,” she said. “On the other side, they’re like, ‘Yeah, we have to put them together.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 17, 2022.

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