On Monday afternoon the province announced its decision to move elementary and secondary schools to remote learning following the April break. Officials said this move has been made in response to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, the increasing risks posed to the public by variants of concern, and the massive spike in hospital admissions.
“We are seeing a rapidly deteriorating situation with a record number of COVID cases and hospital admissions threatening to overwhelm our health care system,” said Premier Ford. “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.”
All publicly funded and private elementary and secondary schools in the province will move to teacher-led remote learning when students return from the break on April 19, 2021. Private schools operating in-person this week are to transition to remote learning by April 15, 2021.
“This was not a decision we made lightly, as we know how critical schools are to Ontario students, said Education Minister Stephen Lecce. “However sharply rising community transmission can put our schools and Ontario families at risk.”
Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca called for Lecce to resign after the announcement was made.
“Just yesterday, Minister Lecce wrote to parents telling them that all publicly funded schools would remain open after the April Break. One day later, Doug Ford is closing them for weeks. The in-fighting between Doug Ford and his education minister is putting our children and education workers at risk, and Lecce should be fired for it,” Del Duca said in a statement.
Child care for non-school aged children will remain open, before and after school programs will be closed and free emergency child care for the school-aged children of eligible health care and frontline workers will be provided. Boards will make provisions for continued in-person support for students with special education needs who require additional support that cannot be accommodated through remote learning.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province have increased by 22.1 per cent between the period of April 4 and 10, 2021. In addition, during this same period of time, Ontario has seen the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care increase from 494 to 605.
The province said with students moving to remote learning, vaccine prioritization of education workers who provide direct support to students with special education needs across the province, and all education workers in select hot spot areas, starting with Peel and Toronto, will continue. Special education workers across the province and education workers in Peel and Toronto hot spots will be eligible to register for vaccination by calling the provincial vaccine booking line at 1‑833‑943‑3900. More information is available at Ontario.ca/covidvaccine.