Pembroke-area students return to class this week


Students in the Pembroke-area and the rest of Ontario will begin to return to class Tuesday for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tuesday marks the first day of school for students in both the Renfrew County District School Board and the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board. 

The province closed all schools on March 13 after COVID-19 cases began to rise and Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Friday he was confident schools are safe to return.  

"Everyone is focused on this and we all have skin in the game and we need to get this right and we lead in so many aspects in Ontario with a safe, comprehensive protocol," Lecce said. 

Dr. Robert Cushman, Acting Medical Officer of Health for Renfrew County, said in a message online that protocols are in place at all area schools to keep students safe, so it's a good time to return to the classroom. 

"Schools are so important; Our kids, roughly 15,000 of them, have been couped up since mid-March, their education has suffered, their social lives have suffered and even their mental health has suffered," he said. 

"It's time to start school again." 

Some boards in different parts of the province will also re-open schools Tuesday, while others will begin to restart over the next two weeks.

In a message to parents, Pino Buffone, Director of Education with the Renfrew County District School Board, said the board is "excited" to welcome students back and safety remains the top priority. 

"I would like to reassure our students, staff and school communities that we are taking every precaution in the resumption of teaching and learning throughout the District as we continue to live through the COVID-19 pandemic," he said. 

"I am confident that, together, we will continue to celebrate our strengths and address areas for growth, especially as we navigate the many uncertainties of public education during a global pandemic."