Chaos, Confusion And Closures Remain On The Books For Ontario’s Schools
In an abrupt about-face just 26 hours after Ontario’s Minister of Education said schools in the province would re-open on schedule, following the Spring Break on Monday, April 19, Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday, April 12, that remote learning would continue for the foreseeable future and, perhaps, most ominously, did not include any anticipated date for a return to in-school learning.
The move is the latest in a series of reactionary responses by the province in its struggle to adapt to a disturbing surge in new COVID-19 cases it says are the results of a rampant rise of infections brought forth by the new variants of concern. In just the last week, the seven-day moving average of daily cases in Ontario has risen from the low-3,000s to more than 4,000 per day, with no end in sight. Public health units reported a province wide test positivity rate of 9.5 per cent.
The province is also struggling under the weight of the increasing pressure on the health-care system brought on by this surge, with the number of people in ICUs in Ontario surpassing 600 as of April 12. As evidence of the seriousness of the situation for the first time in its history, The Hospital for Sick Children is taking adults older than 18 years old in its eight ICU beds, and as of April 12, seven of those beds were already occupied.
Ontario’s move to continue remote learning for both elementary and secondary school students comes just one day after Education Minister Stephen Lecce had issued a letter to families saying he expected schools to re-open on schedule Monday, April 19. Provincial Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said a “prolonged” school closure is “prudent”.
The Ontario Ministry of Health reported another 217 school-related cases of COVID-19 cases, including 186 students, 30 staff and one person who was not identified.
“I can’t stress this enough. We’re at a critical point right now,” said Premier Ford. “The situation is changing quickly, and we need to respond. Right now, I’m extremely concerned about the new variants.”
The premier said that, despite the closures, child-care for non-school age children will remain open. Before- and after-school programs, however, will remain closed.
Said Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa late Monday, “We need to do two things: stay home and apart and get vaccinated.”