SAULT STE. MARIE -- In spite of the lockdown in northern Ontario getting extended for another two weeks, school boards, unions and teachers in the north are all preparing for in-class learning to return to the north Monday.

Sault Ste. Marie's four school boards and Algoma Public Health have been hammering out the details on a plan to return since the province announced the decision Thursday.

"We want parents to be able to make an informed decision," said Sandra Turco, Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board chair. "If they choose that … they want their children to stay home, we will be providing remote learning educational opportunities for them."

Turco said special education classes and transportation services will also resume starting on Monday for elementary students.

However, based upon the meetings between Algoma Public Health and all school boards, secondary schools in Sault Ste. Marie will not reopen at least until Jan. 25.

"Our secondary students, they have the ability to stay home without supervision, so that's one of the decisions," said Jennifer Sarlo, Algoma District School Board chair. "As for elementary students, anyone who can stay home for the next two weeks is encouraged to."

Sarlo said a large student base in Sault high schools, coupled with a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, also played a part in the decision to keep them closed, at least within the city.

"In our district, central Algoma and northeast of Sault Ste. Marie, they will be in-school learning, the numbers are low or non-existent in those areas," she said.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation district 2 Algoma said it was surprising to hear schools would be reopening, given that the lockdown in the north had been extended.

"The government is going to do what they want to do," said Terri Lyn Della Penta, union local president. "We're just going to try ensure the safety of all, even though we're very worried about it."