LONDON, ONT -- Only seven regions in southern Ontario will be allowed to return to in-class learning next week. This doesn't include schools in the London area, meaning online learning will continue until further notice.

The province released a statement late Wednesday afternoon, saying students in the following public health units will resume in-class learning on Jan. 25:

  • 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 that all schools in the following schools boards will resume in-person learning on Jan 25.

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

The government has not provided any return dates for the other outstanding public health units in the province.

In a statement, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that “getting students back into class” was the government’s top priority, and that more than 100,000 kids will be returning to in-person learning on Monday.

“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,” he said.

“To ensure schools remain safe, the government is introducing additional measures including provincewide targeted asymptomatic testing, enhanced screening, mandatory masking for students in Grades 1-3 and outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained.”

On Jan. 7, the province extended online learning for all Southern Ontario students to Jan. 25, however some COVID-19 hot spots got extended until Feb. 10.

Toronto, Windsor, Hamilton, Peel and York regions will not be returning to in-class learning next week.

Meanwhile seven school boards in Northern Ontario were told elementary students could resume in-class learning as early as Jan. 11, but some decided to keep schools closed due to rising COVID-19 cases.

All students, both elementary and secondary, have been out of class since before Christmas while the province entered another lockdown.

In that time, cases continued to rise following the holidays prompting the province to bring in stricter lockdown rules.

In London, there has been a decrease in new COVID-19 cases over the last week, but levels remain well above those seen last spring when students were also out of school.

The Thames Valley District School Board says students with special needs who had already returned to in-class learning are not impacted by the decision.