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Ontario schools will remain open, April Break will proceed, Lecce says

Last Updated Apr 1, 2021 at 2:48 pm EDT

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce speaking at Queen's Park in Toronto on June 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says in-class instruction and April Break will go on as planned.

This comes after speculation classes would move online if the province increases COVID-19 regulations.

“Schools will remain open — critical for students’ mental health & learning,” said Lecce in a tweet Thursday.

“The Chief Medical Officer of Health has said schools remain safe. Against third wave & VOCs, strong protocols have kept 98.7% of schools open and 74% without any cases. Students deserve to be in class.”

A letter from the York Catholic District School Board was sent out Wednesday advising parents online learning would begin April 6.

Government sources told 680 NEWS Thursday morning that information was inaccurate.

The province decided earlier this year to delay the March break until April in an effort to curb COVID-19 cases, saying it wanted to discourage group gatherings and travel over that time.

With infections now rising in the province once more, questions had been raised about whether the government might alter spring break once again.

Lecce says that nearly 3 in 4 schools have “no cases at all,” adding that the government will not hesitate to take action if the circumstances worsen.

On the heels of the province releasing its latest round of COVID-19 data and modelling, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown – co-chair of Ontario’s science advisers – was asked about the safety of students and staff with infections rising across the board.

RELATED: 4 more TDSB, 2 TCDSB schools to close due to COVID-19

“Schools really reflect the level of infection in the community,” said Brown.

“This is a very, very, very, very hard tradeoff. If schools stay open, we will see more infection.”

The panel says that despite the surge in cases, school disruptions should be minimized, noting that school closures have a “significant and highly inequitable impact on students, parents, and society.”

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), was critical of the idea of postponing or cancelling spring break.

He said that the government’s failure to contain the spread of COVID-19 has led to the possibility of another postponement even though teachers need the break for their mental health.

“If there are concerns related to travel and gatherings during the break, these should be addressed by the government through other means than cancelling the break,” said Hammond in a statement.

Following Lecce’s statement, the YCDSB sent another letter to parents apologizing for the confusion.

“The York Catholic District School Board apologizes for any confusion with regards to potential school closures,” the letter reads.

“As of this morning, we are under every impression that students will continue in-class learning.”

Doug Ford announced a lockdown across all public health units that will last at least four months.

Those new restrictions will go into effect on Saturday.

It would be similar to Ontario’s grey zone, which currently enforces a hard 50% capacity on essential retail, such as groceries, and a 25% capacity limit on non-essential shops.

Though it was initially announced hair and nail salons would open on April 12 in the grey zone, those will remain shuttered.

The province is reporting 249 new COVID-19 cases in schools with just under 2,500 cases in the last 14 days.

Of Thursday’s 249 positive cases, 211 were in students.

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