Peel Public Health has issued a Section 22 order to close all schools and switch to remote learning only in Brampton, Caledon, and Mississauga for two weeks.
The health unit says this will be effective at 12:01 a.m. on April 6.
The closure will remain in place through the end of day April 18. Further decisions to extend the order will be made, as required, and Peel Public Health says the return will be re-evaluated closer to that date and is subject to change.
“This closure is a necessary step to protect staff and students in Peel Region. With increasing case counts and the presence of variants of concern, we need to break chains of transmission and keep our schools safe,” said Peel Region Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh.
“I know this will be challenging for parents to navigate and we appreciate all the sacrifices parents continue to make as we continue to fight COVID-19 in our community.”
RELATED: Lecce insists schools are safe, Toronto Public Health won’t recommend move to remote learning
Loh says the closure will allow students and staff at least two weeks out of schools to break any chains of transmission and protect them from exposure.
The public health unit says Peel Region saw significant increases in case counts and the spread of variants in the community, leading up to Monday’s announcement.
“This closure will allow students and staff at least two weeks out of schools to break any chains of transmission and protect them from exposure,” they said in a release.
- All Dufferin Peel District Catholic School Board, Peel District School Boards, Conseil Scolaire Viamonde, Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir, and all private schools including all elementary staff and students, secondary staff and students and Special Education staff and students.
- All April Break spring camps for school-age children will be cancelled.
Peel Public Health says licensed child care programs will remain open for children under 6 years of age who are not attending school.
“If your child attends a school in Peel Region, they are not allowed to attend child care centres or day camps, including those offered by child care providers, during this closure,” the health unit says.
The Peel District School Board says it respects the decision made by the public health unit.
“Spring Break will carry forward as planned the week of April 12 to 16, 2021,” Colleen Russell-Rawlins, Director of Education, PDSB confirmed in a statement to 680 NEWS.
“We remain grateful to staff, students, and families who have taken extraordinary efforts to change their routines and carry out collective actions to limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep our school communities safe. The health and safety of students and staff in schools, along with a strong commitment to student learning, continue to be our main focus.”
The DPCDSB issued a letter to parents asking that they continue to monitor communications for further updates as they become available.
Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) President Sam Hammond called it a “very prudent decision.”
“Thanks to Peel Public Health! This protects students, educators and supports our health care workers,” tweeted Hammond.
This is a very prudent decision. Thanks to Peel Public Health! This protects students, educators and supports our health care workers! https://t.co/okLUfK7RYR
— Sam Hammond (@etfopresident) April 5, 2021
Last week, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced in-class instruction and April Break would go on as planned.
Lecce said 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.
The minister’s office once again defended its stance on keeping students in class, saying Monday “schools remain safe with strong public health measures in place that have kept nearly 99% of schools in Ontario open.”
On Monday, the ETFO issued a statement calling on the Ford government and public health units (PHUs) in hot spot areas to take “immediate steps to ensure the safety of educators and students, including a temporary move from in-person to virtual learning.”
“The Ford government’s shutdown announcement did nothing to assure Ontarians that it has their best interests at heart. Instead, it left many feeling abandoned, frightened, and unsure about the future,” added Hammond.
“As medical experts have said, there is no excuse – no valid reason – to not begin vaccinating all essential workers today; this includes all education workers. Failure to do so, with so many available vaccines sitting in freezers, is negligent and dangerous.”
An erroneous letter from the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) was sent out last Wednesday advising parents online learning would begin April 6.
680 NEWS later confirmed the letter was inaccurate, leading to the YCDSB issuing a separate letter to parents apologizing for the confusion.
In provincial modelling released last week, data showed that younger people are now ending up in the hospital and in ICU beds.
The modelling revealed the risk of ICU admission is two times higher and the risk of death is 1.5 times higher for the B.1.1.7 variant.
Data as of Monday, April 5
The province reported 249 new COVID-19 cases across Ontario schools on Monday, including 211 student infections.
There have been just under 2,500 positive cases in schools reported in the last 14 days.
On Friday, Doug Ford announced a lockdown across all public health units that will last at least four weeks.
The new restrictions went into effect on Saturday.