The Ontario government is considering an extended school closure as the winter break approaches.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce commented on the matter on Tuesday, adding that a comprehensive announcement is coming sometime in the next two weeks.
“We have to do whatever it takes to protect the gains we've made in the ministry, within our education ecosystem,” Lecce told reporters following Question Period. “ I am seriously looking at solutions that may include some period out of class that allows for us to protect the gains we made in this province going into the second year. And we will be able to report more substantively on that soon to give parents notice that understandably they deserve.”
Lecce hinted that the announcement will involve some changes for January, but did not release any further details.
"The announcement we will unveil will be comprehensive and include a variety of elements, one of which can include something like an extended closure and online learning experience.”
The minister added that he is consulting with Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams to ensure children can re-enter school in January 2021 safely.
Most of Ontario’s schools reopened to students in mid-September as health officials reported between 200 and 400 COVID-19 cases a day in the province. Since then, the province has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases, with more than 1,500 cases reported in mid-November.
As of Tuesday, there have been a total of 3,518 lab-confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Ontario schools and 614 in licensed child-care facilities.
There are 670 schools across the province that have a positive case of COVID-19.
Speaking later in the afternoon, Ontario Premier Doug Ford stressed that no official decision regarding an extended winter break had been made.
“Let’s not confirm that until the minister sits down with the Chief Medical Officer – I don’t want to jump the gun here and say be prepared,” Ford said. “It may not happen.”
“I think everyone wants to keep these schools open for as long as we can but the minister is going to sit down with the chief medical officer he'll make that decision, bring it over to the cabinet and, and we'll collectively make that decision.”
Shortly after speaking to reporters, Lecce appeared to walk back on his earlier comments, tweeting that health experts have said that schools should remain open.
Last week the Ontario government said that it is “currently not considering modifications to the school year calendar for 2020” but stopped short of ruling out any extended holiday closures.