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Ottawa schools will remain closed for in-person learning next week, Ontario government announces

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OTTAWA — Elementary and secondary school students at Ottawa’s four publicly funded school boards will not be returning to class on Monday.

The Ontario government announced late Wednesday afternoon that schools in Ottawa will not be allowed to reopen for in-person learning on Jan. 25.  The decision means students in the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, Ottawa Catholic School Board, the Conseil des ecoles catholiques du Centre-Est and the Conseil des ecoles publiques de l’Est will continue with remote learning next week.

Schools within the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region will also remain closed on Monday.  The announcement did not say when schools could reopen for in-person learning.

The provincial lockdown which began on Dec. 26 delayed the Jan. 4 holiday break resumption for elementary students one week. However, rising COVID cases across much of the province pushed all but seven northern school boards to extend the closure until Jan. 25, while students who attend schools in Toronto, Peel, York, Hamilton and Windsor-Essex are scheduled to continue online learning until Feb. 10.

“Getting students back into class is our top priority,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce in a statement. “According to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and leading medical and scientific experts, including the Hospital for Sick Children, Ontario’s schools are safe places for learning.”

The government says to ensure schools remain safe, it will introduce additional measures including province-wide targeted asymptomatic testing, enhanced screening and mandatory masking for students in Grades 1-3.

The Ontario government says elementary and secondary schools in the following Public Health Units will be permitted to resume in-person learning on Jan. 25:

  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Health Unit
  • Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
  • Peterborough Public Health
  • Renfrew County and District Health Unit
  • Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit
  • Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit
  • Grey Bruce Health Unit

Schools in the following school boards in eastern Ontario will resume learning on Jan. 25.

  • Renfrew Country District School Board
  • Renfrew County Catholic District School Board
  • Limestone District School Board
  • Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board

In a media release, the Ontario government says some schools in the Upper Canada District School Board, Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, the Conseil des ecoles catholiques du Centre-Est and the Conseil des ecoles publiques de l’Est will be allowed to open in public health unit regions where schools are permitted to open.

In a statement to parents, the Ottawa Carleton District School Board said, “Elementary and secondary OCDSB students will continue with remote learning. In-person learning will be maintained for students in specialized program classes.”

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board had previously said secondary schools would continue with remote learning until Jan. 29.

In a note to students, the Conseil des ecoles catholiques du Centre-Est said students who attend a school in Ottawa will continue virtual learning until at least Feb. 10. Students who attend a CECCE school outside of Ottawa will be able to resume in-person learning on Jan. 25. 

Virtual classes and online learning have been a challenge for some students and parents alike. 

For Catherine Fisk, she had hoped Wednesday’s announcement would be in favour of back-to-school, her daughters Charlotte, in grade two and Bridgette, in grade four, are wanting to head back as well.

“They miss all of their friends and the interaction at school,” says Fisk. “I notice a big difference in their moods and their mental health so i think it’s important for them to get back.”

Ottawa medical officer of health, Doctor Vera Etches wrote in a statement that given the challenges for parents, guardians and students learning from home, she is asking employers to be understanding and that mental health and well-being are important, offering resources for help.

Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Dr. Etches said Ottawa Public Health is ready to help schools reopen safely.

“We appear to be turning the curve in Ottawa and Ottawa Public Health is ready to support a safer return to school,” said Dr. Etches.  “With added emphasis on the daily screening and testing for people with symptoms to keep COVID-19 out of schools.”

Doctor Paul Roumeliotis, the medical officer of health of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA, said the consensus around the medical table is ‘open them up’, adding the downward trend is the reason he’s not against it.

Ottawa has seen a decrease in active cases during the lockdown. Wednesday the city reported 67 new cases of novel coronavirus.

When students return, expect additional measures to ensure safety. It is likely Ontario will mandate that students at all grade levels wear masks. Previously, masks were required for Grades four and up, but encouraged for everyone else.

COVID-19 testing in December showed that schools were not a significant source of transmission however over the holiday break, along with reports of people breaking the rules, positivity rates among children age 12-13 years old increased form 5.44 percent in November to nearly 20 percent in January.

Fisk says that if COVID cases trend above 100, she worries more, but says her kids are responsible and ready to return.

“If it’s safe for them to go back we’d love for them to go back,” says Fisk. “if not we’ll just keep on keeping up homeschool.”

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When Ontario declared a COVID-19 health emergency last spring, the first instinct of Ottawa entrepreneur Peter O’Blenis was to preserve cash.

“We basically stopped our discretionary spending,” said O’Blenis, the co-founder and CEO of Evidence Partners, which makes software for accelerating the review of scientific and medical literature, using artificial intelligence. “We cut investments in things meant to help us grow.”

It was a defensive posture born of experience. O’Blenis had 12 years earlier nearly been crushed by the global financial crisis. Another looked to be on the way.

In 2008, O’Blenis and his colleagues, Jonathan Barker and Ian Stefanison, hit a brick wall with their first venture, TrialStat, which helped hospitals manage patients’ electronic data. While TrialStat had secured $5.5 million in venture financing just a couple of years earlier, the founders had burned through most of it during a rapid expansion. When the financial world collapsed, so did their firm.

The trio played things far more conservatively with Evidence Partners, which has relied almost exclusively on customer revenues to finance expansion.

The caution proved unnecessary. Like so many other businesses, O’Blenis underestimated the government’s willingness to keep the economy afloat with easy money. Nor did he anticipate that COVID-19 would prove a significant catalyst for the firm’s revenues so soon.

Evidence Partners is hardly the only local firm with technology particularly suited for the war against COVID-19. Spartan Bioscience and DNA Genotek adapted existing products to create technology for identifying the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Ottawa-based units of Abbott Laboratories and Siemens Healthineers make portable blood analyzers that diagnose patients afflicted by the virus.

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Shepherds of Good Hope wants to expand ByWard Market operation with eight-storey housing complex

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The Shepherds of Good Hope plans to build an eight-storey building near its current shelter for the homeless in the ByWard Market that would include supportive housing for up to 48 people, a soup kitchen and a drop-in centre.

The organization says it wants to be part of the solution to the housing crisis that has fuelled a rise in homelessness in Ottawa.

People would be moved out of the emergency shelters and into their own tiny apartments in the complex, which would include a communal dining hall and staff available to help with mental health, addiction and medical problems, said Caroline Cox, senior manager of communications for the Shepherds.

Some residents in the neighbourhood are opposed, saying services for the homeless and vulnerable should not be concentrated in one area of the city.

“I was flabbergasted,” said homeowner Brian Nolan, who lives one block from the development proposed for 216 Murray St., where currently a one-story building houses offices for the Shepherds of Good Hope.

Nolan said that, in the 15 years he’s lived in the area, it has become increasingly unsafe, with home and car thefts, drug dealing, loitering, aggressive and erratic behaviour, urinating, defecating and vomiting on sidewalks and yards and sexual acts conducted in public on his dead-end street. Before he lets his son play basketball in the yard, he checks the ground for needles and his home security camera to see who is nearby.

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Carleton University Hosts the Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City

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evehe Carleton University Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City given by Leslie Kern launches Ottawa Architecture Week. Urban geographer, author and academic, Kern will discuss how the pandemic has highlighted long-standing inequalities in the design, use and inclusivity of urban spaces. The talk will share some of the core principles behind a feminist urban vision to inform a wider vision of justice, equity and sustainability.

When
: Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.
Registration: https://alumni.carleton.ca/event-registration-architecture-forum-series-with-leslie-kern-2/.

About the Speaker

Kern holds a PhD in Women’s Studies from York University. She is currently an associate professor of Geography and Environment and director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Mount Allison University.

Kern is the author of two books on gender and cities, including Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World (Verso). The book discusses how our cities have failed in terms of fear, motherhood, friendship, activism, the joy and perils of being alone, and also imagines what they could become.

Kern argues, “The pandemic has shown us that society can be radically reorganized if necessary. Let’s carry that lesson into creating the non-sexist city.”

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