Toronto school boards warn classes could go virtual on Monday due to snowstorm

Two of Toronto’s largest school boards say virtually all elementary and secondary classes could go ahead on Monday as the city prepares for what Environment Canada calls a “heavy snowfall” overnight.

The weather agency has issued a snowfall warning predicting between 15 and 20 centimeters of snow will fall between Sunday night and Monday night, while City of Toronto forecasters say it could reach 30 centimeters.

In a message to parents Sunday evening, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) said a decision would be made on whether to cancel school buses and close schools by 6 a.m. Monday morning. If that happens, all K-12 classes will move online.

“While we shared last month that if the buses were canceled it would be a typical ‘snow day’ (no live learning) as the whole system has already been learning remotely for almost two weeks and given the disruptions to student learning, we believe it would be best to extend remote learning for an additional day from K-12,” the statement read.

“This is particularly important as we anticipate an increase in student and staff absences due to COVID-19 and related isolations over the coming weeks.”

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) released a similar statement on Sunday evening, saying its decision was also expected by 6 a.m. Monday.

“Given the unique circumstances with school staff and students already learning/working remotely over the past two weeks, we felt it would be best to continue remote learning for students in the Kindergarten to Grade 12 for an additional day, to avoid any further disruption to learning,” the TCDSB statement read.

The TCDSB said daycares could remain open and asked parents to confirm directly with their providers.

Ontario schools are different should go back to in-person learning Monday after two weeks of virtual learning following the holidays.

The snow will be “heavy, disruptive”

City of Toronto forecasters expect the snow volume to be “heavy, disruptive.”

Winds of up to 50 km/h should only worsen visibility.

Snow can fall as fast as two to three centimeters per hour Monday morning, making the trip potentially treacherous.

Environment Canada says a low pressure system moving south of the Great Lakes will generate snowfall of 25 to 40 centimeters in parts of southern Ontario by Monday evening.

The agency’s winter storm watch indicates the heaviest amounts are forecast for much of eastern Ontario and the Niagara Peninsula, as well as Simcoe County north of Toronto. The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area could see accumulations of 15 to 20 centimeters by Monday evening.

“There could be a significant impact on rush-hour traffic in urban areas,” the agency said, advising people that “rapid accumulation of snow will make traffic difficult.”

“Everybody on the bridge”

Vincent Sferrazza, director of maintenance and operations for Toronto Transportation Services, said road salting machines began applying liquid brine to the roads on Sunday afternoon in anticipation of the storm. The salt and water solution is intended to keep roads from freezing and to prevent snow from sticking to the ground, allowing snowplows to clear it more easily.

He said the city’s fleet of more than 1,000 machines – from salt-spreading trucks to snow plows for roads, sidewalks and bike paths – and the crews that operate them, are ready to be deployed as soon as the snow touches the ground.

“Everyone will be on deck,” Sferrazza said. “All equipment will be activated.”

Snow could fall as fast as two to three centimeters per hour Monday morning, making a trip in Toronto potentially treacherous. According to Environment Canada, a winter storm is forecast for several parts of southern Ontario. (Trevor Dunn/CBC)

Don Valley Drive and the Gardiner Expressway will be serviced first, along with major arterials including University Avenue, Bay Street and Yonge Street, followed by collector and local roads, bike paths and sidewalks.

Sferrazza advised residents planning to travel on Monday to give themselves extra time to get to their destination, as roads and sidewalks won’t be in the best condition for travel.

“If you see all of our gear on the road and on the sidewalks, please stay away,” he said. “They have a very important job to do. They effectively secure the road and sidewalks so you can use them.”

People are advised to exercise caution while driving, especially as students are should go back to in-person learning Monday morning.

However, even this performance is compromised for some school boards, given Staff shortages related to Omicron.

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