Ford: ‘It wasn’t an easy decision, but it’s the right decision’
TORONTO — Students will not be returning to school this year.
Premier Doug Ford announced on Tuesday afternoon that Ontario’s public schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After consulting with health experts, it is clear that we cannot open schools at this time,” said Ford. “I’m just not going to risk it.”
Added Ford, “It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it’s the right decision.”
Private schools, licensed childcare centres and EarlyON programs will also remain closed through stage one of Ontario’s reopening plan.
The Premier stated that a plan is in place to keep students learning during the pandemic, and that the government is planning for the reopening of schools for the 2020-21 school year.
“Today’s announcement gives parents certainty, knowing that their children can continue to learn safely at home and that we have a plan for childcare as we work to gradually reopen more of our economy, when it is safe to do so,” stated Ford.
The province says that all students who were on track to graduate from high school before the initial school closure order was made in March will be able to graduate, and that all students will receive report cards.
Later this summer, the Ontario government is expected to announce plans and safety protocols for students and staff ahead of returning to in-class instruction this fall.
Minister of education Stephen Lecce says this plan will feature an enhanced province-wide virtual learning program, “that will allow all students to learn, regardless of the challenges that may transpire in the coming months.”
“We will never waver from our commitment to keep your child safe, while learning at home,” said Lecce. “Our plan will ensure students receive the best educational experience, both inside and outside the classroom, during this difficult time.”
Lecce also announced a seven-point summer learning plan that will allow students to continue learning during the summer months. This is an expansion of summer learning programs already in place.
The province is also looking at ways to improve access to technology and Internet connectivity, especially for students in rural Ontario.
The province says that both indoor and outdoor summer day camps will be allowed to open “assuming key public health indicators continue to improve” in July and August.
Overnight summer camps, Ford said, will remain closed.
The summer day camps will be required to follow “strict health and safety guidelines” that will be developed in partnership with local public health, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, and local municipalities.
Emergency childcare will continue to operate and provide support for health care and other frontline workers.
It is expected that childcare facilities will begin to reopen when the province moves to stage two of their reopening plan, which could be as early as the first week of June.
The province moved to stage one on May 19 when certain businesses were allowed to reopen their doors. Ford said last week that the province wants to see consistent improvement in COVID-19 numbers for at least 14 days before moving to stage two.