Home since mid-March, students will not be returning to school this spring. The province this week announced the cancellation of classes, emphasizing a voluntary online option.
The decision came Tuesday in an online briefing from Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, who cited safety concerns for cancelling the 2019/2020 school year.
“I’m just not going to chance it when it comes to our kids,” said Ford. “We know that people travel all across this province and in the summer, they even travel more. … Some areas don’t even have any COVID cases, but why chance it for a few weeks? It’s just not worth it, and when it comes to our children, I’ve said many times I’m not going to chance anything.”
Ford’s decision to close schools comes as provinces like Quebec and British Columbia have seen students return to class on a voluntary basis.
To make up for the cancellation of the school year and ensure students will be able to get the necessary education needed to move forward, online learning already established in early April will continue.
Ford says report cards will go out for all students from kindergarten to Grade 12, with everything possible being done for students to graduate as they should. Summer learning will also be expanded this year and will welcome “more students than ever before” to a voluntary in-class and online learning experience, focusing on seven different areas of study.
Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris says he welcomes the announcement, which protects kids during the pandemic.
“As a father of five young children and working largely from home these past few weeks, I understand the real pressures faced by parents right now,” said Harris. While schools will remain closed, the province is boosting summer learning and is leveraging all tools, resources, and services available to assist local schools boards in developing at-home learning for students especially in rural areas.”
In addition to schools remaining closed, Ford announced that overnight camps would not be taking place this year for safety reasons.
“Unfortunately, we just can’t have camps with 500 kids living together right now. I know this will be tough for many kids who look forward to their overnight camps,” he said in his statement.
There is hope for those who still want to have some form of summer camp experience as day camp programs can be held if “trends continue to improve.” These openings will come if deemed safe by local health officials, and guidelines will be imposed to ensure their health and safety. This will happen in phase two of the province’s reopening plan, with phase one having been rolled out this week.
Lecce says there are plans to reopen childcare centres once the province reaches phase two of reopening, which will be done with strict healthcare protocols. Currently, emergency childcare is available only for frontline workers.
School is expected to reopen this fall, and Lecce said new standards will be imposed so students can safely return to class. These guidelines will be announced before the end of the current school year in June.