Peel and Durham Region students among the first in the GTA to begin staggered return to schools

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Thousands of students and teachers in Peel and Durham Region will be among the first in Ontario to begin the staggered return to the classroom Tuesday.

Orientation begins for high school students in Peel Region. The Durham public will welcome the first group of elementary students.

This comes amid ongoing tension between four major teachers' unions and the Ford Government.

Earlier this week, the unions alleged the province's school reopening plan didn't take "every reasonable safety precaution" to protect students, teachers and other school staff.  They've asked the labour board to step in and mandate new measures.

Clearly, that won't happen before the start of classes.

Meanwhile, speaking to our media partner CP24 today, Education Minister Stephen Lecce once again defended Ontario's back-to-school plan.

"We've also worked with school boards, like Toronto District School Board, for example, to triage and focus on reducing classroom sizes, maximize distancing in those areas of higher risk - neighbourhoods in Scarborough, Etobicoke, among others. We have focused on ensuring that the schools on the ground have the full complement of resources of PPE, of hand sanitizer. They are what's called intensely staffed, meaning more custodial cleaning, more staffing, more distancing. We've taken an evidence approach in this to make sure province-wide that resources are there, in every single school board."

Bus drivers are also gearing up for the new normal. Buses will undergo increased cleaning and students must wear masks onboard.

Parkview Simcoe school bus driver Shelley Kieffer spoke to CP24: "Kids will all have to be wearing masks. They'll have to sit in an assigned seat and that will be their seat for the rest of the school year. For myself, I'll have to be wearing a mask and gloves while driving. When I load and unload the kids on the bus, I'll have to put on a face shield as well."

For everything you need to know on back-to-school plans, go to our website Newstalk1010.com.

And, be sure to tune in to NEWSTALK 1010 for comprehensive back-to-school coverage, starting at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, on "Moore in the Morning".

Education Minister Stephen Lecce joins the show at 7:40 a.m.