Toronto Public Health to close 22 schools across city due to COVID-19 investigations

·4 min read
There will be empty classrooms at 22 schools in Toronto starting on Tuesday. Toronto Public Health has recommended the closures to allow officials more time to investigate COVID-19 cases. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
There will be empty classrooms at 22 schools in Toronto starting on Tuesday. Toronto Public Health has recommended the closures to allow officials more time to investigate COVID-19 cases. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Toronto Public Health says it has recommended the closing of 22 schools across the city starting on Tuesday due to COVID-19 investigations.

The list includes 11 Toronto District School Board schools, nine Toronto Catholic District School Board schools, one French school and one independent school.

The closures will allow public health officials more time to investigate COVID-19 cases.

The TDSB and TCDSB said in tweets on Monday they are dismissing the schools following advice from TPH. Students at the schools in the two boards will shift to remote learning. It is not known if students at the French and independent schools will do so.

No dates have been given for any of the schools to reopen.

"We will keep the school communities informed as soon as the reopening dates are confirmed," TPH said in a tweet.

"In the meantime, we remind all residents of the importance of keeping your distance, wearing your mask & washing your hands to help protect yourself & others."

The TDSB list includes three high schools, two middle schools and six other elementary schools.

The TCDSB list includes two high schools and seven elementary schools.

According to TPH, the other two schools to close are George Etienne Cartier Catholic Elementary School, run by the Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir, and Abu Bakr Education Academy, an Islamic elementary school run independently.

Schools close when there are safety concerns, TPH says

Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health for TPH, said in an email on Monday night that the decision to close a school is based on safety concerns.

"Each COVID-19 case in a school requires a careful investigation to determine the potential risk to other individuals in that setting, and based on the findings of the investigation, decisions are then made on how best to protect the staff and students in the school, including dismissing some cohorts or all cohorts," Dubey said.

"TPH continues to work closely with the school boards and will keep the school informed as soon as the reopening date is confirmed."

Dubey added: "COVID-19 spreads through close contact with someone who is infected with the virus, and not from specific locations. Since COVID-19, including variants of concern, are circulating in the community, cases related to community transmission are expected."

'Each COVID-19 case in a school requires a careful investigation to determine the potential risk to other individuals in that setting, and based on the findings of the investigation, decisions are then made on how best to protect the staff and students in the school, including dismissing some cohorts or all cohorts,' says Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health for Toronto Public Health.
'Each COVID-19 case in a school requires a careful investigation to determine the potential risk to other individuals in that setting, and based on the findings of the investigation, decisions are then made on how best to protect the staff and students in the school, including dismissing some cohorts or all cohorts,' says Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health for Toronto Public Health.(Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Peel Public Health to close all schools in Peel Region

Meanwhile, schools in Brampton, Caledon, and Mississauga will be closed for the next two weeks, after Peel Public Health issued a Section 22 order under the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Under the order, learning will be remote only, starting at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday and lasting at least until the end of day on April 18. Decisions on whether to extend the order "will be made, as required," Peel Public Health said.

"With increasing case counts and the presence of variants of concern, we need to break chains of transmission and keep our schools safe," Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel's medical officer of health, said in a statement.

Toronto Public Health is not making the same move, saying earlier it will "continue to manage risk on a school-by-school basis, taking immediate and appropriate action to address these complex outbreaks."

In a tweet, the TDSB said all school boards in Toronto have been informed by TPH that all schools in the city, except individual ones closed for COVID-19 investigations, will open on Tuesday after the Easter long weekend for in-person learning.

According to Dubey, TPH recommends to parents that students can attend school if they pass a screening questionnaire, but they should not gather with others, even those in their class outside of the classroom, and they should keep six feet or two metres apart from people with whom they do not live.

Students also need to wear a mask that fits well when outside their homes, wash their hands often and stay home if they are sick.