‘Elevated’ infection control measures when students return to school after April break, says education minister

Province is determined to keep schools open

With reports swirling Premier Doug Ford is going to hit the emergency brake and put the province into lockdown for four weeks, multiple sources indicate Ontario schools would remain open after the Easter holiday until the April break, which is scheduled to begin Apr. 12. What happens after the break will depend on what comes out of consultations with health officials.

COVID-19 cases are rising and straining hospital intensive care units, so the government is expected to detail lockdown information at a news conference Friday, with the emergency measures kicking in at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said his government’s “full commitment” is to keep schools open, and he added students would return to “elevated” infection prevention and control measures following the April break.

Lecce said on Wednesday that public health experts consulted by his government continue to believe that schools are “overwhelmingly safe” and are not a significant contributor to viral spread.

“What I can assure families is that our intention is to proceed with the April break but we are not going to be reintegrating students back into schools without a heightened level of vigilance on that date so we will bring forth a plan that will highlight and underscore improved safety measures and access to testing that will reduce any potential case entering into our schools,” he said. “We are not resting on our laurels. We are increasing our vigilance and corresponding action to make sure that when a child returns from that break we can do so with confidence that they are not entering with potential cases.”

Lecce doesn’t believe schools will need to be closed for a second time this year.

No schools in Simcoe-Muskoka have been closed because of a COVID-19 outbreak. The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board has sent a letter home to parents and guardians to have a plan in place should staffing shortages, due to the pandemic, require the temporary closure of a school.