Ontario’s education minister Stephen Lecce said Thursday that schools will remain open as they are “critical for mental health and learning.”
He also previously said the April Break will go ahead as planned.
“Students deserve to be in class,” Lecce tweeted.
The April Break is set for the week of April 12 which was postponed from the regular mid-March scheduling.
The move comes as it is anticipated the provincial government will implement a four-week provincewide “emergency brake” as COVID-19 case counts and ICU admissions continue to surge.
Students and staff across boards in Ontario had been told to take their belongings home in anticipation they may not be able to return to in-classroom learning.
York Catholic District School Board had prematurely sent out a letter to parents on Wednesday advising them that remote learning could begin after the Easter weekend.
On Thursday, the board issued an apology “for any confusion with regards to potential school closures.”
“As we learn (Thursday) morning we are under every impression that students will continue in-class learning,” York Catholic District School Board said.
During a press conference on provincial COVID-19 modelling data, Dr. Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, from Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said the rising infections in school “really reflect the level of infection in the community.”
“I think it’s important to recognize if infection takes off in the community the schools amplify this,” Brown said.
“This is a very, very hard trade off, we know that if schools stay open we will see more infection but we also know the impact on children of these interruptions in schools is really hard and damaging. So it’s a challenging trade off.”
Brown said if there is any room for choices to get COVID-19 infection rates under control that “schools would be the last thing I’d personally recommend closing and the first things to open up.”
Meanwhile, government figures show there have been a total of 13,278 school-related COVID-19 cases in Ontario to date — 9,936 among students and 2,179 among staff (1,163 individuals were not identified).
This is an increase of 249 more cases in the last day — 211 student cases, 36 staff cases and two individuals were not identified.
In the last 14 days, the province indicates there are 2,057 cases reported among students, 424 cases among staff and six individuals were not identified — totaling 2,487 cases.
The COVID-19 cases are currently from 1,240 out of 4,828 schools in the province which is 25 per cent of schools.
Sixty-three schools in Ontario are currently closed as a result of positive cases, the government indicated.