The Ontario government says an in-class school year will not be able to recommence during the coronavirus pandemic, however, online learning will continue.
Daycares and childcare centres will also remain closed, with the exception of those opened for front-line workers. Home-based childcare is also allowed to continue.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement alongside education minister Stephen Lecce and Health Minister Christine Elliott at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.
Ontario schools have been shutdown since March 13.
Ford said the safety of children is the priority and opening the schools would not be feasible while the pandemic still continues.
“Today’s announcement gives parents certainty, knowing that their children can continue to learn safely at home and that we have a plan for child care as we work to gradually reopen more of our economy, when it is safe to do so,” Ford said.
The government launched a teacher-led online learning program for students, which includes graded work and credits. Ford said this will continue.
The provincial government said it is partnering with 34 organizations and private businesses, along with school boards, to address key needs among educators, students and their families.
When asked about what school may look like if it is able to resume in September, Lecce said he imagines it will be different.
“It is obvious that schools will not look the same, that we will have to re-imagine education in some respects in September, given that there will have to be protocol changes … even with respect to movements, children going outside,” Lecce said.
A full plan of what it will look like will be released by the end of June, Lecce said.
“We will never waver from our commitment to keep your child safe, while learning at home,” he said. “Our plan will ensure students receive the best educational experience, both inside and outside the classroom, during this difficult time.
“That is why we are strengthening summer learning opportunities, reopening summer day camps, and it is why we will continue to make the case for synchronous, live, and dynamic learning.”
The president of the association that represents Ontario’s school boards said she appreciates that the government is taking a “measured and cautious approach” to the return to in-class instruction.
The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association said it will work with the province to reopen schools in the fall.
“In all likelihood, the school experience will be different from what we are used to, and I know that school board staff will endeavour to make the return as safe and positive as possible,” Cathy Abraham said in a statement.
The update comes as the province starts the first stage of its economic reopening today, giving the green light to retailers, some sports centres, vehicle dealerships and other businesses to resume.
But the province stresses those businesses still have to comply with public health guidelines such as physical distancing as they welcome customers.
Ford said that the government is working hard to allow for daycare centres to be reopened once the province reaches the second stage of the reopening plan.
He also said that overnight camps will not go ahead this summer, but as long as trends keep improving, day camps will be able to open, with strict public health measures in place.
As of Tuesday morning, Ontario reported 23,384 coronavirus cases and 1,919 total deaths.
—With files from The Canadian PressView link »