All publicly-funded schools across Ontario will be closed for two weeks following the March break over concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic
The Ontario government said in a statement that the move is “necessary to keep people safe” and is based on the advice of Dr. David Williams, Ontario chief medical officer of health.
Schools will be closed from March 14 to April 5.
“Since we first learned of COVID-19 as an emerging public health issue, Ontario has been diligently monitoring the developing situation to protect the health and well-being of all Ontarians,” said a joint statement from Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliot and Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
“We recognize the significant impact this decision will have on families, students, schools, as well as the broader community, but this precaution is necessary to keep people safe.”
Ford said the school closing announcement builds on a number of actions the government has taken to respond to COVID-19, including the “moving forward of additional public health measures, which include enhanced access to screening, expanding lab-testing capacity, and implementing new initiatives to keep the public and frontline workers safe.”
Ford said the province is setting aside up to $100 million in contingency funding in the upcoming 2020 budget to address challenges related to COVID-19.
“We are further mindful of those who work in other public institutions and buildings. As this situation evolves, Ontario’s COVID-19 Command Table is prepared to respond quickly and effectively to any scenario and provide the government with advice o measures to keep the public and frontline workers safe.”
At the same time, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association announced it had reached a tentative labour deal with the provincial government.
No terms of the agreement were released.
OECTA represents about 45,000 elementary and secondary teachers in the publicly-funded Catholic school system.
The deal makes OECTA the first of the four major teachers’ unions to reach an agreement in a highly contentious round of bargaining.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario continued its talks with the government on March 12.
Bargaining with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation have stalled.