The Province of Ontario will be keeping schools closed for the rest of this school year, Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, confirmed on Tuesday.
Ford said doesn’t want to risk reopening schools. The decision was made at the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
“I’m not going to chance it when it comes to our kids,” Ford said.
“The safety of our children is the top priority and we will not take an unnecessary risk. After careful consideration, it is clear we cannot open schools are this time, will not risk it. It’s not an easy decision to make but we must put our kids safety first.”
The provincial government is planning to reopen the schools for the 2020-21 school year, the gradual reopening of child care, and the opening of summer day camps subject to the continuing progress in trends of key public health indicators.
All students who were on track to graduate from secondary school before the initial school closure order was made in March will be able to graduate, and all students will receive report cards.
The premier also said that overnight camps will be closed but assuming trends in key public health indicators continue to improve, summer day camps, both indoor and outdoor, may be permitted in July and August of this year with strict health and safety guidelines.
“We can’t have camps with 500 kids living together right now. I know this will be tough for many kids,” Ford said.
Lecce said that when the province does resume classes, “schools will not look the same.”
By the end of June the government will announce a plan to strengthen learning and safety protocols to enable students and staff to return to in-class instruction for the 2020-21 school year.
That plan will be supported by an enhanced province-wide virtual learning program that will allow all students to learn, while in-person classes remain closed.
“We will never waiver from our commitment to keep your child safe, while learning at home,” Lecce said.
“Our plan will ensure students receive the best educational experience, both inside and outside the classroom, during this difficult time. That is why we are strengthening summer learning opportunities, reopening summer day camps, and it is why we will continue to make the case for synchronous, live, and dynamic learning.”
Private schools, licensed child care centres, and EarlyON programs will also remain closed for the safety and protection of children, families and staff through Stage 1 of the Framework for Reopening the Province.
Emergency child care will continue to operate and provide support for health care and other frontline workers. A gradual reopening of child care is expected to begin when the province is ready to transition to Stage 2 based on public health criteria, which will include strengthened safety protocols.
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The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) said they “appreciate” the government taking a “measured and cautious approach” to the return of in-class instruction that is based on the advice of health officials.
“Following the March Break, we’re now entering our ninth week of school closures. Trustees, educators, and school and board administration have been working long hours to implement successful online remotes learning for students from junior kindergarten through Grade 12,” the statement said.
OPSBA added that they will continue to work with the government to facilitate a return to school in September, acknowledging that the school experience will be different.
Ontario schools have been suspended since mid-March, with children learning online with the Learn at Home program, which offers curriculums for Grade K to 12 and lessons for basics like reading, writing, math, and science skills.
Originally, schools were cancelled for two weeks following the March Break. But as the pandemic continued and coronavirus cases increased, Lecce extended the deadline, with schools being closed until June at the earliest.