Toronto schools to close on Wednesday as COVID cases rise

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David Rider



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All schools in Toronto will be closed from Wednesday, the Toronto Department of Public Health said, following a similar initiative by Peel Region which already has students learning online this week.

The change has an impact on the Toronto District School Board – the largest board in the country and one of the largest in North America – with 247,000 students, as well as the Catholic Council of Toronto with 91,000 students and French-speaking Catholic schools and francophones, and comes during the week. before a delayed spring break.

A handful of public health units across the province have also closed schools in recent days to help fight COVID-19 in communities.

On Monday, Peel Public Health said all public and private schools in Mississauga, Caledon and Brampton would be closed as of Tuesday as they tackle the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the region.

“This closure is a necessary step to protect staff and students in Peel Region,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Medical Officer of Health, Monday.

“With the increase in the number of cases and the presence of worrying variants, we must break the chains of transmission and keep our schools safe. I know it will be difficult for parents to navigate and we appreciate all the sacrifices parents continue to make as we continue to fight COVID-19 in our community.

The government has said its priority is to keep schools open. However, across the province, individual health units spanning schools in Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Superior-Greenstone, and the Superior North Catholic Council had already called for a switch to distance learning to deal with peaks in case.

The Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph area will close all schools, also effective Wednesday.

News of the Toronto closure came a day after the local public health unit announced that 20 public and Catholic schools would be closed due to COVID – the Toronto Public Council alone announced 11 school closures. schools due to COVID outbreaks, including Danforth Tech, East York Collegiate, and Riverdale Collegiate.

Education unions in Toronto have been pushing for no face-to-face classes this week, with students learning at home, followed by spring break, which has been postponed from its regular school schedule. half-March.

Leslie Wolfe, president of the Toronto local of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, called it “irresponsible” and “downright inexplicable” to keep schools open.

On Tuesday, a handful of staff from three high schools – Western Technical, Ursula Franklin and Don Mills – refused to work, citing security concerns related to COVID.

York Region also says its schools will remain open. In Ottawa, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said on social media that her team “is reviewing COVID data in schools to provide advice on an approach for schools in Ottawa.

The affected Peel councils are: Peel District, Dufferin-Peel Catholic, Conseil Scolaire Viamonde, Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir. Private schools are also due to close, and a handful of private schools in other parts of the province have voluntarily decided to switch to online learning.

Dufferin-Peel Catholic Council schools are also expected to close.

On Tuesday, the government faced growing calls to close schools across the province and vaccinate teachers during the upcoming spring break so children can return to school while ensuring staff safety.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said, “(Doug) Ford cannot condone the growing cases of COVID-19, which are making our schools unsafe for students and educators. It’s time for the Prime Minister to step up and close schools this week in sensitive areas, as well as open vaccinations for teachers and support staff.

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He also said the province needed “a coordinated plan to keep students, teachers and staff safe.”

Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, urged the government to “take advantage of the upcoming April break to vaccinate all education workers who would like to receive one, so that our schools remain open at all times. “.

Ford said on Tuesday that a plan was being developed to vaccinate teachers earlier than the current rollout in mid-May.

Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter who covers city hall and municipal politics for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags
David Rider is the Bureau Chief of Star’s City Hall and a journalist covering town hall and city politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

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