Ontario high schools to resume regular schedules in February

A row of lockers inside a school. File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / kenhurst.

High schools students across the province will soon experience some pre-pandemic normalcy, as regular timetables are expected to resume in the early new year.

The Ontario government announced Thursday afternoon that school boards across the province can return to timetabling four courses a day when second semesters begin in February. Some schools may be allowed to make the change sooner, as long as they are supported by their local public health unit.

“Recognizing the high rates of immunization among youth in our secondary schools, I’m proud to announce that secondary schools will resume a regular timetable model of four courses a day starting in term two,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said.

Numerous school boards made changes to high school schedules during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, to keep cases from spreading and make potential contact tracing of positive cases easier. The “modified-semesters” saw students take four classes per term alternating with two, three-hour classes each day.

Additionally, new testing options are being deployed as many people begin to spend more time indoors and attend family gatherings during the holidays and colder winter months.

Ahead of the winter break, all students attending publicly funded schools will be provided five rapid antigen tests to take home to use over the holidays and throughout the return to in-person learning. All First Nation schools will also have the opportunity to participate.

“By expanding testing options over the winter holiday, putting in place additional safety measures, and returning to normal timetabling, we are taking action to ensure schools reopen safely while supporting a more positive learning environment for students.”

As of November 17, nearly 85 per cent of children aged 12 to 17 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while over 80 per cent have received two doses. Health Canada is expected to announce the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for kids aged five-to-11-years-old on Friday, with nearly three million doses presumed to arrive in Canada by the end of November.