Premier Doug Ford announced on Tuesday (March 31) that schools in Ontario will remain closed until at least Friday, May 1st for teachers, and until at least Monday, May 4th for students.
Publicly funded schools have been closed since Saturday, March 14th in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The original tentative reopening date was Monday, April 6th.
“The decision to extend school closures was not made lightly,” Premier Ford said. “We know from the medical experts that the next two weeks will be critical in the fight against COVID-19 and that’s why we’re taking further action to keep our kids safe and healthy by having them stay home.”
“At the same time, we cannot put the school year in jeopardy. That’s why we’re providing additional tools for at-home learning and ensuring students from kindergarten to Grade 12 to post-secondary education can finish their academic year and get the credits they need to graduate.”
The closure extension was made on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. Before May 1st, the decision will be re-evaluated based on public health advice, with the closure extended if necessary.
Private schools, licensed child care centres, and EarlyON programs will also remain closed until Monday, April 13th. Selected child care centres designated to support front-line health care workers and first responders will remain open.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce explained why there are two different dates for the closure of publicly funded schools and for the closure of private schools and child care centres. While the closure of public schools was made under the Education Act, the closure of private schools and child care centres was made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which only allows closures to be extended for one 14-day period at a time.
Lecce said no student will have their graduation compromised by COVID-19, and that the Ministry of Education is collaborating with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to ensure that there will be no barriers to accessing post-secondary education.
“We will do whatever it takes to keep students safe from COVID-19 — which is why we have extended the school closure period and why we have unveiled a teacher-led program that keeps students learning while at home,” Minister Lecce said. “By providing clarity for parents, enhancing support for students and enabling the teacher-student relationship, we are ensuring our children continue to safely learn — providing some sense of stability and hope for them amid this difficulty.”
When asked by media why the Ontario government is not cancelling the school year as in other provinces, Minister Lecce said the staged approach follows the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and is intended to give some hope to families that their children may be able to eventually return to traditional learning in schools. He said a decision to cancel the school year is possible, but will be considered closer to the May 4th date.
The Ontario government is proceeding with the second phase of its Learn at Home program, which includes now includes supplemental STEM learning resources created by third-parties and a parent resource that is focused on reading and writing.
In addition to learning resources for kindergarten and elementary school students, there are now 36 English courses and 47 French-language courses available for secondary students. For details, visit ontario.ca/learnathome.
TVO Kids (and its French-language equivalent, TFO) is also offering educational programming throughout the day for school-aged children.