Enhanced safety measures will be in place when in-person learning resumes at Toronto-area schools on Tuesday.

The COVID-19 hot spots of Toronto, York Region, and Peel Region are the last to have students return to physical classrooms. 

All students began the new year learning remotely as part of a provincial lockdown and the government has since allowed other regions to reopen shuttered schools in phases over the last few weeks. 

In Toronto, the country’s largest school board encouraged parents to talk to their children about the importance of following public health measures. 

“Please remind your child of the continued importance of hand washing, physical distancing and mask wearing,” the Toronto District School Board said in a letter to parents. 

In York Region, the local health unit reassured parents it’s safe for their children to return to school.

“We are working in close partnership with the school board and taking all appropriate steps for the health, safety and well-being of our school community,” it said in a letter.

The provincial government has said declining case counts and additional safety measures have made it safe to reopen shuttered schools. 

Among those measures is a more detailed COVID-19 screening form that must now be filled out by students or their guardians every day before coming to school.

Dr. Eileen De Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, told parents in a recent letter the screening means that if anyone in a household has a COVID-19 symptom, all children and adults who attend a school must stay home until the virus has been ruled out. 

She also said that if anyone in a child’s household has travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days all children and adults must stay home. The same goes if anyone in a child’s household is self-isolating at home because they were a close contact of someone who had COVID-19.

The province is also now requiring students in Grade 1 and above to follow provincial health guidelines and wear a mask whenever they’re indoors and during outdoor recess when physical distancing is not possible.

The province is also expanding asymptomatic COVID-19 testing at schools. 

The Ministry of Education said Monday that it plans to have the testing take place in 40 Toronto schools per week moving forward. 

In York Region, the province said the local public health unit has identified 16 schools that will undergo testing starting this week.

Peel Region has encouraged students, staff and their families with symptoms in the past week or those who’ve been identified as a close contact to get tested before in-person learning resumes. Those who need to get tested have been directed to 12 existing testing locations and mobile testing clinics at four schools.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2021.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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