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Schools going virtual in Thunder Bay

Two-week virtual learning period recommended to begin on March 1 at all three school boards, plus the Thunder Bay Christian School.
St James Public School Winter
St. James Public School is one of five Thunder Bay schools with a COVID-19 outbreak declared. (Leith Dunick,

THUNDER BAY -- Students in Thunder Bay will be going virtual, starting on March 1. 

A source confirmed school board directors in the city have been sent a directive approving the move from in-class learning, and said they believe all school boards are affected.

A letter sent to all local school boards from the Thunder Bay District Health Unit medical officer of health Dr. Janet DeMille recommends all local school boards pivot to virtual learning. The Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board confirmed on Thursday students will not be in school for at least two weeks. 

"Under the recommendation of Dr. DeMille, we will be transitioning to remote learning beginning Monday, March 1st. We are awaiting a letter of instruction which will provide more details from the TBDHU. We will continue to notify our TBCDSB community as we receive further information," reads a release issued by the Catholic board. 

Lakehead Public Schools also confirmed its students would be learning at home for the time being, adding administration is awaiting instructions from the health unit as to next steps.

In addition to the Catholic Board and Lakehead Public Schools the recommendation also includes the Thunder Bay Christian School and CSDC Aurores Boreales's two Thunder Bay schools. 

Mike Judge, president of the Lakehead Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, said it's a difficult decision, but the union is 100 per cent in support of whatever public health orders are issued. 

Safety comes first, Judge said. 

"When Dr. (Janet) DeMille is making a decision, we don't take that lightly," Judge said. "Our members don't take that lightly. We're really glad that she has looked at this situation very closely and spoken to all stakeholders and has come to the conclusion that she feels is in the best interest and safety of all. 

"When public health makes an order, we're ready to say, 'How high,' because we're going to be as supportive as we can." 

The move comes two days after the Lakehead Public Schools board of trustees unanimously passed a motion asking public health officials and the province to pivot their schools to virtual only for at least two weeks. 

At the time, board chair Ellen Chambers said 7.7 per cent of the student body in public schools were at home in self-isolation, representing 576 students. 

In the past week, outbreaks declared in five city schools, four of which have already sent students home -- St. James Public School, Kingsway Park Public School, Westgate Collegiate and Vocational Institute and Woodcrest Public School. 

This is a developing story and it will be updated when more information becomes available. 


Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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