TORONTO — Ontario students won’t return to their classrooms this spring, as the province has put off reopening schools until the 2020-2021 school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott announced the decision today. The delay in reopening schools comes after consultations with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and medical experts on the COVID-19 command table and The Hospital for Sick Children.
While the province hasn’t offered a firm September date for reopening schools, the province says it is “planning for the reopening of schools for the 2020-21 school year, the gradual reopening of child care, and the opening of summer day camps subject to the continuing progress in trends of key public health indicators.”
“Nothing is more important than protecting our kids in this province, bar none over anything,” said Premier Ford. “Today’s announcement gives parents certainty, knowing that their children can continue to learn safely at home and that we have a plan for child care as we work to gradually reopen more of our economy, when it is safe to do so.”
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, and all students will receive report cards.
Later this summer, the government says it will announce a plan to strengthen learning and safety protocols to enable students and staff to return to in-class instruction for the 2020-21 school year. That plan, according to the government, “will be bolstered by 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.”
Private schools, licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs will also remain closed for the safety and protection of children, families and staff through Stage 1 of the Framework for Reopening the Province. Emergency child care will continue to operate and provide support for health care and other frontline workers. A gradual reopening of child care is expected to begin when the province is ready to transition to Stage 2 based on public health criteria, which will include robust safety protocols for the safety of Ontario’s youngest learners and their staff.
“We will never waver from our commitment to keep your child safe, while learning at home,” said Minister Lecce. “Our plan will ensure students receive the best educational experience, both inside and outside the classroom, during this difficult time. That is why we are strengthening summer learning opportunities, reopening summer day camps, and it is why we will continue to make the case for synchronous, live, and dynamic learning.”
“We know children belong at school with their peers for their physical and mental well-being. As I have discussed with Minister Lecce, taking the time to ensure the appropriate infection prevention and control measures are in place, along with thoughtful screening and testing protocols, is a prudent step forward as we work to facilitate a safe return to school in the fall,” said Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO, The Hospital for Sick Children.
According to the province, if key public health indicators continue to improve, summer day camps — both indoor and outdoor — may be permitted in July and August of this year with strict health and safety guidelines to be developed in partnership with local public health, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, and municipalities. Overnight camps will not be permitted to operate in the summer of 2020.
The province has also unveiled an expanded seven-point summer learning plan to ensure Ontario students have every opportunity to continue their learning through the summer months. Summer learning programs are being expanded to reach more students than ever, according to the government, “to ensure they remain on track to start the 2020-21 school year with the confidence and knowledge required to succeed.”
To help improve access to remote learning, Ontario is partnering with 34 organizations and private businesses, along with school boards, to address key needs among educators, students and their families during the COVID-19 outbreak.