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The Debate over Rural and Urban School Openings

Throughout the current pandemic an escalating level of analysis has been applied to rules for urban municipalities and the accompanying requirements for rural areas.

Business openings, school closures, and in-person shopping revolve around different rules for different regions across the province. Generally, a resumption of normal operations proceeds faster in rural and northern areas than the cities of southern Ontario.

On January 28, an interesting development occurred when the Ontario Ministry of Education confirmed that secondary and elementary students across the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) and London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB) would be returning to classroom instruction during the week of February 1.  Minister Stephen Lecce claimed the decision was made on recommendations from the province’s chief medical officer of health with the support of local health units.

Both London area boards are similar to Waterloo Region and include a mix of cities, smaller towns and schools that are located between population centres. Local buildings remained closed on February 1 along with the Avon Maitland District School Board and Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board.

The Waterloo Region District School Board informed parents on January 28 that online education will continue until “at least February 10.” The Waterloo Catholic District School Board earlier indicated they expected a week’s notice prior to any re-openings. It should also be noted that the province made decisions for designated health units and boards of education within those boundaries can open classrooms.

Frustration at the recent announcement and the continuation of online learning was extremely high in Huron and Perth. Parents cited bad internet connections and students now attending class in centres like London and Ottawa as highly unfair.  Adding to the frustration are school openings in Bruce and Grey Counties on January 25. Dr. Miriam Klassen, the medical officer of health for Huron and Perth Counties did however note that local case counts among school staff and students have been very high.

The debates will continue and announcements are expected as the data around new cases is analyzed. The decisions are increasingly complex and difficult however the education system, in one form or another, will survive and continue for rural and urban students.


Written by Art Sinclair

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