“By keeping kids home longer after spring break, we will limit community transmission,” said premier
The Ontario government, in consultation with Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, has decided to move elementary and high schools to remote learning following the April break, according to a press release issued on Monday.
Premier Doug Ford said in the press release that this move was made due the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, increased risks posed to the public by variants of concern, and a spike in hospital admissions.
“As I have always said, we will do whatever it takes to ensure everyone stays safe,” said Ford. “By keeping kids home longer after spring break, we will limit community transmission, take pressure off our hospitals and allow more time to roll out our COVID-19 vaccine plan.”
All publically funded and private elementary and secondary schools in Ontario are to move to teacher-led remote learning when students return from break on April 19. Private schools operating in person this week are to transition to remote learning by April 15.
Data will be assessed on an ongoing basis, and health officials will be consulted to determine when it will be safe to resume in-person learning.
Child care for younger aged children will remain open, before and after school programs will close, and free emergency child care for school-aged children of eligible health-care and front-line workers will be provided. School boards will have to make provisions for continued in-person support for students with special needs who require additional support that cannot be accommodated through remote learning.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said that this decision was a tough one to make.
“Our priority has always been to keep schools open, however sharply rising community transmission can put our schools and Ontario families at risk,” said Lecce. “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.”
Case rates, hospitalizations, and ICU occupancy are increasing across Ontario, threatening to overwhelm the health care system. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Ontario has increased by 22.1 per cent between April 4 and 10. The province has seen the number of people in ICU increase from 449 to 554 in this timeframe.
Ontario enacted a provincewide stay-at-home order on April 8. People are required to remain at home except for essential purposes. These essential purposes are going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, exercise, and work that cannot be done remotely.
Vaccinations of education workers who provide direct support to students with special needs across Ontario and those working in select hot spot areas will continue. These education workers will be eligible to register for vaccination by calling the provincial vaccine booking line at 1‑833‑943‑3900 effective Monday.