QUEEN'S PARK – As expected, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced today (June 2) that students will continue to learn remotely for the balance of the 2020-21 school year.
"Making this tough decision now will allow kids to safely enjoy camps and outdoor activities this summer, and a safe return to school in September," Ford told reporters at the Ontario Legislature.
He explained that recent data modelling by Ontario's Science Advisory Table shows that there would be an increase in COVID-19 cases between six and 11 per cent. Ford said those numbers combined with the threat of the new Delta or B.1.617.2 variant of the virus, is not a risk he wanted to take.
"We can't risk increased cases and potential downstream impacts on hospitals and ICU's," he said.
Ford added that by taking the measure now to keep remote learning in place to the end of the school year will help make outdoor sports and summer camps possible in July and August.
"While this decision was not made lightly, it has been done with one aim: protect the summer for families and deliver a stable and safe September for students," said Minister of Education Stephen Lecce.
An announcement has been expected since last week. The school year is set to end on June 28 and on Thursday, Ford asked for input from the province's top doctors and science advisors on whether schools should reopen.
At the time, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, medical officer of health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit and a pediatrician, advocated for students to return to in-class learning.
"From our point of view, we estimate that at the end of the month we will have manageable numbers in our area to be able to have a safe return to school," Roumeliotis said on May 17th.
Roumeliotis advocated for a regional approach for school reopening this spring.
All daycare supports currently in place after the school shutdown in mid-April will remain in place until the end of the school year.
Students across Ontario have been remote-learning since April 19.
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Morrisburg Leader