Fort Frances area students aren’t in their classrooms today, as the Northwestern Health Unit pushed back the return of in-person learning until January 25 at the earliest.

Medical Officer of Health for the NWHU, Dr. Kit Young-Hoon, says she understands this is a significant disruption to local families, but the additional rise of COVID-19 cases over the weekend and evidence of community transmission could not be ignored.

As of the time of writing, there are currently 56 active cases of COVID-19 in the region. That includes 32 active cases in the Rainy River District, 22 in the Kenora region and two in the Dryden / Red Lake region, after Saturday marked a record-high 20 confirmed cases in the area.

The announcement was made on Sunday, January 10, one day before students were set to return.

“We continue to monitor the situation in other communities and will take additional measures as necessary,” adds Dr. Young-Hoon.

This extension affects nine Fort Frances schools, including:
- St. Mary’s School,
- Our Lady of the Way School – Stratton
- J.W. Walker Public School
- Robert Moore School
- Donald Young School
- Fort Frances Intermediate School and High School
- Crossroads Public School – Devlin
- Mine Centre Public School – Mine Centre
- Seven Generations Secondary School

This coincides with Southern Ontario’s extension for students to learn virtually, as well as the extension of Northern Ontario’s lockdown, but many northwestern Ontario students have already returned to their classrooms.

Students with the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board elsewhere and Kenora Catholic District School Board are in class, and everyone is asked to continue following the established COVID-19 safety protocols.

The KPDSB adds that any students who have travelled outside of the province or country should not attend any school properties for 14 days upon their return, as well as students who may have travelled to regions in Southern Ontario.

Some regional school boards are opting for virtual learning until January 15 at the earliest, including Gaagagekiizhik Elementary and Bimose High School in Kenora.

NWHU recommends that everyone assume COVID-19 is in their community and practise preventive measures like physical distancing, wearing a mask in enclosed public spaces and when physical distancing is a challenge, good hand hygiene, and not touching their face.

Anyone who has symptoms, or who has been in contact with a positive case, should self-isolate and get tested.

For more information:
Daily screening key for the return to class for students: NWHU
COVID-19: 12 more cases reported; most in a single day