Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on Tuesday that in-person elementary and high school classes are cancelled for the rest of the school year as part of an ongoing effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Joined by Education Minister Stephen Lecce, the premier added that overnight summer camps will not go ahead this year but day camps may be able to open in July and August with restrictions in place if cases of COVID-19 continue to drop.
As for the future, Lecce said that “we will have to reimagine education for September,” adding that the province’s plan for reopening the doors to schools in the fall will come by the end of June.
Schools were initially closed on March 23 as a preventative measure, meaning that there will be 94-day span without formal schooling. Daycares will remain closed for now and will be gradually reopen as part of the province’s second stage of reopening.
Report cards will still be delivered to students and there will be voluntary summer school that could see some students getting ahead in their education, Lecce said.
Green Party Leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner said in a statement that he agreed with the plan to cancel schooling but added “the cancellation of in-class instruction should also trigger an immediate plan for child care so that parents are not left in the lurch.”
“The premier must lay out clear guidelines for how Ontarians should balance a return to work with caring for their kids at home. Parents and low-income families need answers and childcare solutions to reduce the financial hardship from the loss of the school year.”
“Without financial assistance, many childcare providers face permanent closure and so the government must commit to stabilization funding to keep them afloat.”
Provincial and public health officials have been considering the path forward for the provincial education system for several weeks.
The decision also comes after the Upper Grand District School Board voted in late April to send a letter calling for schools to remain closed to Queen’s Park.
“In order to ensure the continued safety of our educational community and the general public, and to provide stability to our families, we would like to recommend that physical school buildings remain closed until the end of the school year,” a letter from the UGDSB chair to Lecce said.
The rates of transmission by children is largely unknown at this point but no Canadian children have been killed by the virus at this point, according to the national health agency.
There was a brief break from education-related news when the premier spoke out against commercial landlords that are treating small business tenants unfairly, saying “nothing drives me more crazy than greedy landlords.” He warned that he will “come down on landlords who evict tenants.”
(Reporting by Eli Ridder; Editing by Jack Fisher)