Bracing for an extended school break: period of virtual learning possible
While the schoolyard play continues for now, the yards could be silent for an extended period of time after the holiday break.
"We've heard nothing formal. Of course, there are conversations and speculations and rumours that we hear and where there's smoke there's usually a little bit of fire," said Craig Smith, president of the Thames Valley local of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).
He's expecting some form of announcement in the near future that may include a two-week virtual learning period after Christmas.
A similar step was taken after last Christmas with the expectation there would be spread through family gatherings and parties. It was hoped infections could be identified and students put in isolation before a return to school.
"My understanding is the medical officers of health province-wide are being called in to a meeting within the next day or so. So we may see some communication about what the next week and a bit looks like, and more importantly I think, what they're looking at past the Christmas break,” said Smith.
The province is reporting 260 active outbreaks connected to schools, with 239 linked to elementary schools and uncertainty about Omicron is persisting.
There are reports that parents have already begun keeping students at home in advance of the Christmas break.
Arthur Ford Public School parent Amanda Titus says it's not something she's witnessed and it's not something she's considering for her daughter, "Sometimes we do when it's a little bit closer to the end of school, just depending on what's going on in class, things like that, but because of what's going on, no."
Daughter Ava Denomme says she still likes being in school, "I feel I like the way it's going, it's kind of like normal."
Smith says, while there was hope going into the current school year that things might soon return to normal, he doesn't see normal coming any time soon, "It's still an uncertain time and, in many ways, this school year is more off-kilter than last years was."
He is encouraged by the uptake in COVID-19 vaccine. The latest report from the Middlesex-London Health Unit shows about 24 per cent of eligible children ages five to 11 in the region have been vaccinated.