Education Minister pulls back on extended winter break idea less than a day after suggesting it

Local medical officer of health says COVID isn't spreading as readily in school settings

The province’s Education Minister says there will not be an extended winter break in response to COVID-19, less than a day after suggesting his ministry is considering it.

MPP Stephen Lecce released a statement Wednesday stating the prolonged break from learning won’t be required. “We have consulted with the Chief Medical Officer of Health as well as the Public Health Measures Table and have determined that an extended winter holiday is not necessary at this time,” reads a statement from Lecce. “Our focus remains protecting the progress we have made in our schools this fall, as we look to and plan for the new year.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Lecce acknowledged his ministry was mulling over extending the break around the holidays, while Premier Doug Ford was quick to point out no decision has been made.

Simcoe Muskoka’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner, says it appears the virus rarely spreads within a school setting. “The great majority of those exposures did not lead to transmission and that I think, is a testament to the safety of the school environment, that precautions in place at school environments,” said Gardner Tuesday afternoon. “It does speak to the importance of people screening their children before they go to work and before the children go to school and excluding them from going to school if they have symptoms really important.”

Since school began in September, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has investigated 81 cases of COVID-19 at 47 schools in the region. There were two outbreaks declared at schools in the area as of Wednesday afternoon.