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No extended winter holidays for Ontario's students: Lecce

Last Updated Nov 18, 2020 at 1:19 pm EST

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce speaks during the daily update on COVID-19 at Queen's Park in Toronto on June 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Ontario students will not have an extended winter holiday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced on Wednesday.

The idea of extending the annual break was being considered as a way to impede the spread of COVID-19 in the province, but Lecce announced Wednesday that after consulting with health officials it wasn’t deemed necessary.

“We have consulted with the Chief Medical Officer of Health as well as the Public Health Measures Table and have determined that an extended winter holiday is not necessary at this time, given Ontario’s strong safety protocols, low levels of transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce said in a release.

Lecce stressed that Ontario schools have been “remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks” during a second wave of the virus that’s seen record-breaking daily counts, most notably in Toronto and Peel Region.

“As we safeguard the progress we’ve made in our schools, we will continue to closely monitor all indicators, trends and numbers to protect the safety of our children, their families and all frontline staff in Ontario’s schools,” he added.

The decision comes on the same day that the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) announced the death of a Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) staff member from COVID-19.

“CUPE Ontario’s 280,000 members mourn the loss of our sister, a CUPE education worker at who passed away after contracting COVID-19. Our solidarity and condolences to her family, friends, and all her union colleagues,” the union said in a tweet Wednesday afternoon.

As of Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. provincial statistics reveal a total of 3,626 school-related COVID-19 cases so far in the province.

Of those cases, 2,077 have involved students and 670 schools have had at least one case. That represents almost 14 per cent of all Ontario schools.

So far, three schools have had to close as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks.