The Ford government is moving Ontario elementary and secondary schools to remote learning following the April break.
The move was announced by the provincial government Monday afternoon. Officials said it is in response to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, the increasing risks posed to the public by COVID-19 variants, and the massive spike in hospital admissions, the government said Monday.
“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 Ontario Premier Doug Ford. “As I have always said we will do whatever it takes to ensure everyone stays safe. By keeping kids home longer after spring break we will limit community transmission, take pressure off our hospitals and allow more time to roll out 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 April break on Apr. 19. Private schools operating in-person this week are to transition to remote learning by Apr. 15.
Ford did not say when students will return to in-class learning.
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.
“This was not a decision we made lightly, as we know how critical schools are to Ontario students. Our priority has always been to keep schools open, however sharply rising community transmission can put our schools and Ontario families at risk,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce. “While Ontario’s plan has kept schools safe, as confirmed by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, we are taking decisive and preventative action today to ensure students can safely return to learning in our schools.”
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.
Starting Monday, 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.
As of Apr. 10, Ontario currently has 1,646 COVID-19 patients requiring acute care, which includes 605 patients in ICU, with 382 on a ventilator.
Based on the latest modeling data from the provincial government, cases across the province are growing and the number of people requiring an intensive care bed is projected to rise to approximately 800 people within the next 10 days.
Since Apr. 8, the province has been under a province wide Stay-at-Home order, requiring everyone to remain at home except for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, including getting vaccinated, for outdoor exercise (with only members of the household) in a person’s home community, or for work that cannot be done remotely.