The Lockdown and What It Means For Students
On December 21, 2020, Doug Ford announced a province-wide lockdown starting on December 26 (Boxing Day), lasting 4 weeks (28 days) for regions in southern Ontario, and 2 weeks for regions in northern Ontario. While his decision to begin the province-wide lockdown on December 26 and not earlier has received much criticism, it was done to allow businesses to prepare for the next 28 days of lockdown.
Furthermore, schools are to remain closed past the original end of the winter break of January 4th, 2021, with elementary school students and secondary school students in northern Ontario returning to in-person learning on January 11th, and secondary school students in southern Ontario returning to in-person learning on January 25th. While Ford stated that schools are not part of the province’s problem with COVID-19, the extended winter breaks and remote learning periods were set in place as an additional cautionary measure.
His announcement came amid a steady rise in daily COVID-19 cases and the predicted rise in cases after Christmas and New Years'. While health and government officials have been actively encouraging people to avoid in-person gatherings with those who are not part of their household, it can be said that there have been and will be some who disregard these advisories.
As of December 22, 2020, the rate of positive COVID-19 tests was 4.8%, but rose to 9.7% by December 29, with an upward of 2900 new cases daily in the province of Ontario.
By January 2, 2021, Ontario’s case positive-test rate fell to 6%, however, this is due to an increased number of tests done, for the number of cases had risen to an upward of 3300 new cases since the previous day, an all-time high.
On December 28, 2020, Toronto reached a record high of 957 new cases since the previous day.
What this means for students in particular
As previously stated :
Secondary school students in northern Ontario and all elementary school students are currently set to return to in-person learning on January 11, 2021
Secondary school students in southern Ontario are currently set to return to in-person learning on January 25, 2021
While the current situation is quite similar to the situation in March of 2020, it can be noted that as of December 2020, many schools are much more organized and have been prepared to switch to remote learning. However, the issue regarding the efficiency of remote learning for students still exists. As a grade 12 student in the middle of university applications and grade-determining tests and assignments, I am all too familiar with the notion that online learning, despite being the only suitable solution for continuing schooling during a lockdown, is not very desirable or effective.
In the months between March 2020, and December 2020, video calling sites/applications such as Zoom and Google Meet have adjusted their programming and added a plethora of features to facilitate online-learning, improving efficiency and effectiveness as substitutes for in-person learning. In addition, many teachers have implemented self-study/independent work periods to help give students a little extra time to complete assignments, as well as to help students avoid spending the entire day on a screen. While this has worked for some students, it should be noted that many students find this to be highly ineffective, negatively impacting their education and their high-school/middle school/elementary school experience. Moreover, students in households with multiple people in Zoom/Google meetings/online meetings throughout the day are likely all too familiar with the lags that can occur from the many devices actively using the wifi/internet at any given time, and as a result, risk missing important parts of lessons or instructions from their teachers.
While we will be returning to an online format for school until late January, if we can limit our contact with those outside of our households, wear masks and follow the appropriate preventative and cautionary measures, it is likely that the number of new daily cases will fall, and we will be able to return to school on the set dates (on January 25th for students in southern Ontario and January 11th for students in northern Ontario).