Staff prepares public school classrooms to welcome students in September with new COVID-19 measures in place in Windsor, Ont. On Tuesday, Aug. 25 2020. (Michelle Maluske/CTV Windsor)

The medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex expects to release recommendations on the return to in-class learning for local students this week.

Students resumed online class Monday and the return to in-person learning for elementary students is scheduled for Jan. 11, but that date could change under the direction of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit or the province.

“We are looking at those numbers very closely right now,” says Ahmed. “We will be looking at the trend and will probably provide our recommendation mid-week sometime, by Tuesday or Wednesday.”

Ahmed says they are looking at the evidence carefully and have had discussions with the ministry of education.

“I know there are risks, there are challenges when we are talking about the education of our children,” says Ahmed. “Our education system is critical for the developing mind. We don’t want to jeopardize any learning opportunities for our children, so what we can do to better support it – that’s the critical piece and we are trying to find that balance.”

The dates were set out as part of the Ford government’s province-wide lockdown, intended to suppress the spread of COVID-19.

On Dec. 11, WECHU ordered learning to move out of the classroom and to transition online effective Dec. 14 but, the order expired as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday, but could be extended.

Ontario’s education minister confirmed Sunday that the start dates for in-person learning at schools will still be Jan. 11, despite a rising number of COVID-19 cases over the holidays. High school students will remain online until at least Jan. 25.

In a letter sent to parents on Saturday, Stephen Lecce reiterated that “schools are not a source of rising community transmission” and that the institutions have been protected in part due to the extended holiday break.

Ahmed says he is focusing on what is best for the students and residents in Windsor-Essex. The region had a record-high 16 deaths on Monday and 202 new cases of the virus.

“We will continue to look at the evidence and make decisions and recommendations that make sense for our region,” says Ahmed.

There have been dozens of COVID-19 cases linked with local schools and there are currently two outbreaks – at George P. Vanier catholic elementary school and St. Rose Catholic Elementary School.

Some Windsor-Essex parents are also asking for an extension to decide which learning mode students will be using for the rest of the school year. Students can opt for in-person, when it resumes, or stay online.

In an email to CTV News, GECDSB spokesperson Scott Scantlebury says, as of right now, Jan. 6 will remain the deadline for parents to choose their preferred learning mode.

With files from CTV Windsor’s Ricardo Veneza and CTVNewsToronto.ca.