TORONTO – As many expected, the province has announced that elementary and secondary schools will move to remote learning following the break this week.
“We are seeing a rapidly deteriorating situation with a record number of COVID cases and hospital admissions threatening to overwhelm our health care system,” Premier Doug Ford stated during an April 12 press conference.
“As I have always said, we will do whatever it takes to ensure everyone stays safe.
“By keeping kids home longer after spring break we will limit community transmission, take pressure off our hospitals and allow more time to rollout our COVID-19 vaccine plan.”
Private schools operating in-person classes this week must transition to remote learning by April 15.
Child care for young children will remain open, while before and after school programs will be closed. Free emergency child care for school-aged children of eligible health care and frontline workers will be provided.
Locally, all schools in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) region were already restricted to online learning, as of April 7.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer issued an order closing area schools until at least April 18, following the break. That was likely to be extended due to the situation in the region, where active COVID-19 cases are at an all-time high of 630.
Regardless, the Ontario announcements suspends in-person learning indefinitely throughout the province, with no mention of a possible date to return to classrooms.
“This was not a decision we made lightly, as we know how critical schools are to Ontario students,” said education minister Stephen Lecce.
“Our priority has always been to keep schools open, however sharply rising community transmission can put our schools and Ontario families at risk.
“While Ontario’s plan has kept schools safe, as confirmed by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, we are taking decisive and preventative action today to ensure students can safely return to learning in our schools.”
Officials say the move was made in response to a “rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, the increasing risks posed to the public by COVID-19 variants, and the massive spike in hospital admissions.”
The province notes the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Ontario increased by 22.1 per cent between April 4 and 10.
During the same period, the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units in the province increased from 494 to 605.
“As the fight against this third wave of the pandemic continues, everyone must continue following all public health and workplace safety measures and stay at home to prevent further transmission of the virus, so we can once again resume in person learning in our schools,” stated Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health.