TORONTO – Toronto elementary and secondary schools will be closed for in-person learning as all students and staff will shift to online learning as of Wednesday.
Toronto Public Health (TPH) made the announcement on Tuesday, one day after Peel Public Health became the first local health unit to recommend schools be closed for in-person learning due to COVID-19 concerns.
Similar to Peel Region, the order will be in place from April 7 to 18, which will bring students to the end of the April break.
An extension of this order may be considered based on COVID-19 epidemiological data for Toronto.
“The spread of COVID-19 has never been greater in Toronto, with variants of concern increasing both the risk of transmission and the risk of serious illness or death,” said the City in a news release.
“Stronger public health measures are required to reverse the surge of infection that the province currently faces.”
Important update- @TOPublicHealth has announced that all schools in Toronto – including those at the TDSB, will be closed to in-person learning as of Wednesday, April 7, 2021, and remain closed up to & including Sunday, April 18, 2021.
— Toronto District School Board (@tdsb) April 6, 2021
TPH says the return date for in-person learning will be re-evaluated and is subject to change.
Licensed child care programs will not be permitted to offer care to children whose schools are required to be closed under the order, with the exception of emergency child care for those who qualify, the City confirmed.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa has shifted course one day after TPH said it was not considering sheltering schools and moving to online learning.
“TPH will continue to recommend early dismissal for individual schools upon investigation to protect students, staff, teachers, and school communities,” said the health unit Monday.
TPH has shut down up to 22 schools as of Tuesday due to rising case counts, with the Toronto Catholic District School Board announcing it would close nine schools due to COVID-19 investigations.
De Villa called the rising COVID-19 case rates in the city “horrific.”
Ontario reported 236 new, school-related COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, including 207 in students.
Just over 2,000 cases have been confirmed in the past 14 days. There are over 1,000 schools with at least one reported case and 83 are currently closed as a result.
In the province’s latest modelling, Ontario’s Science Advisory Table said 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.”
Here in B.C., when asked if there are plans to shut down schools, the Ministry of Education said “keeping schools open and safe is a priority.”
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, public health orders and guidelines have been amended to reflect changing knowledge and the risk of spread of COVID-19 in the community and different settings,” it added in its statement.
The ministry says despite exposures in the community, “most COVID cases involving staff or students have not resulted in further transmission within schools, which tells us COVID-19 safety protocols are working.”
In late March, the province announced all students in Grades 4 to 12 would be required to wear a mask while in school. This was a change from the previous mandate, which required middle and high school students to wear face coverings indoors.
All teachers and staff from K-12 are required to wear a mask at school. Mask use continues to be recommended for students in K-3, but is not required.
With files from Ben Wilson and Hana Mae Nassar