Ontario’s publicly funded schools and private schools will not be reopening again this school year.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement during a media briefing at Queen’s Park on Tuesday (May 19) along with education minister Stephen Lecce and health minister Christine Elliott.
“The safety of our children is my top priority, and one thing I will never do is take unnecessary risk when it comes to our children,” Ford said.
“That’s why, after careful consideration, after consulting with the health experts, it is clear that we cannot open schools at this time. I’m just not going to risk it.”
This decision was made after consulting with Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, health experts on the province’s COVID-19 command table, and medical experts at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Ford added that education would continue outside of the classroom with at-home learning. All students, from grades K to 12, will receive their report cards, and 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.
Ford said that child care centres would “begin to open safely” once stage two of the province’s reopening framework is implemented. Emergency child care will continue to operate and provide support for health care and other front-line workers.
Ford also announced that overnight summer camps will remain closed.
“Unfortunately, we just can’t have camps with 500 kids living together right now,” he said.
However, Ford said that — as long as the COVID-19 numbers continue to improve — both indoor and outdoor summer day camps would be allowed to open in July and August, with strict public health measures in place.
“We hope this gives kids and parents something to look forward to this summer,” Ford said. “I know it’s hard at home right now. I know some parents are juggling work and supporting at-home learning.”
The province also unveiled an expanded seven-point summer learning plan so students can continue their learning through the summer months.
Minister Lecce said the government is working on a plan to reopen schools in September, to be released by the end of June.
“As we look forward to September, I want parents to know that we will be introducing new protocols, new standards, to ensure students can return to class safely,” Lecce said. “We will announce that plan for September’s reopening before the end of this school year, following continued guidance by the chief medical officer of health.”
Lecce added that, when schools reopen in September, they “will not look the same.”
“We have to re-imagine education in some respects in September, given that there will have to be some protocol changes — distancing, even with respect to movement of children going outside — all these types of considerations are being made as we speak,” Lecce said.
“We will unveil the full plan for reopening schools safely by the end of this school year, meaning before the end of June.”
This story has been updated with additional details from an Ontario government media release.