TORONTO -- Ontario schools will not reopen in June and will remain closed until September due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The provincial government made the announcement at Queen's Park on Tuesday, saying that online learning will continue for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year and in-person classes will not resume until after the summer break.
Schools across the province have not been open since March 13. At first, schools were supposed to reopen two weeks following March Break, but in an effort to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the closure has been extended multiple times.
"The safety of our children is my top priority and one thing I will never do is take unnecessary risks when it comes to our children," Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday.
"After careful consideration, after consulting with the health experts, it is clear: We cannot open schools at this time. I'm just not going to risk it."
"This wasn't an easy decision to make, but it was the right decision."
The government also announced that private schools, licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs will also stay closed.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he will unviel a plan for reopening schools in September before the end of June. He warned "schools will not look the same" when students return to the classroom for the 2020-2021 year.
All students who were on track to graduate from secondary school before the initial school closure will be able to graduate. All students will receive a report card.
In April, three weeks after schools were closed, the Ontario government launched an online learning program to help students stay engaged with the curriculum during the extended closure.
The province said last week education workers can voluntarily step up and fill staffing gaps in hospitals, long-term care homes, shelters and other congregate settings.
The government is asking educational workers who are not currently engaged in online learning activities to volunteer at front-line facilities. The volunteer positions include custodial, maintenance, food preparation, children and youth service workers, social workers, and educational assistants.
The province said that all volunteers will receive training and safety equipment. They will also be eligible for Ontario’s temporary pandemic pay and emergency child care.
Meanwhile, Ford says Ontario is working hard to ensure that child care centres can reopen once the province gets to its second stage of reopening.
Ford also says that overnight camps will not go ahead this summer, but as long as trends keep improving, day camps will be able to open, with strict public health measures in place.