All schools in Peel Region will be closed as of Tuesday for a two-week period, Peel public health confirmed on Monday.
Peel’s medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, exercised the power to close schools under Section 22 of the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Affected students in Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga will move to remote learning.
“This closure is a necessary step to protect staff and students in Peel Region,” Dr. Loh said in a release. “With increasing case counts and the presence of variants of concern, we need to break chains of transmission and keep our schools safe. I know this will be challenging for parents to navigate and we appreciate all the sacrifices parents continue to make as we continue to fight COVID-19 in our community.”
Peel Region remains one of the virus hotspots in Ontario, with 533 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Monday — second only to Toronto.
Despite Toronto’s troubling case count, Toronto Public Health (TPH) released a statement saying it has no current plans to follow Peel’s lead.
“As of April 5, TPH is not recommending the shift to remote learning for schools in Toronto. TPH will continue to manage risk on a school-by-school basis, taking immediate and appropriate action to address these complex outbreaks. This decision will be revisited on a daily basis, and further recommendations may be made in the near future in partnership with our local school boards and the province. TPH will continue to recommend early dismissal for individual schools upon investigation to protect students, staff, teachers and school communities.”
York Region also said it was “monitoring” the situation, but has no plans to close schools, saying it is following the provincial framework. “This guiding principal is supported by other organizations, including SickKids, indicating schools should be first to open and last to close,” it said in a statement.
York Region Public Health has issued a statement surrounding the status of in-person learning at York Region schools. More information can be found at https://t.co/LEB1WoPLeB and https://t.co/5vr4jxy9OF pic.twitter.com/81oYdDOqem
— York Region (@YorkRegionGovt) April 5, 2021
Meanwhile, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce’s office assured Ontarians that “schools remain safe with strong public health measures in place that have kept nearly 99 per cent of schools in Ontario open.”
“The Peel medical officer of health has stated that schools are safe and are not the source of transmission, however, they can be put at risk by a high-level of community spread.
“It is our firm belief that schools should be open for in-class learning, as they are critical to student mental health. Due to our strong infection prevention measures, 99 per cent of students and staff have no active cases of COVID-19, however we must remain vigilant and keep our guard up in order to keep schools safe and open.”
The move to close Peel schools comes as the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) urged the province in a release Monday “to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of educators and students, including a temporary move from in-person to virtual learning” in virus hotspots.
“The Ford government’s shutdown announcement did nothing to assure Ontarians that it has their best interests at heart. Instead, it left many feeling abandoned, frightened, and unsure about the future,” ETFO President Sam Hammond said in a release.
“Educators firmly believe that quality in-person learning, when done safely, is what is best for students. Unfortunately, due to the Ford government’s repeated refusal to make necessary investments, this is simply not possible in many areas of the province. The government, school boards and PHUs must take immediate action to ensure students and staff are safe, up to and including moving learning online, if that’s what’s deemed necessary,” Hammond added.
The union also urged the Ford government to begin “vaccinating all essential workers today” including education workers.
“Failure to do so, with so many available vaccines sitting in freezers, is negligent and dangerous,” Hammond said.
The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) is also urging the province, and citizens, to take the third wave of the pandemic more seriously.
It’s recommending a government stay-at-home order and the closure of all non-essential businesses, but didn’t suggest schools closing.
— Ontario Medical Association (@OntariosDoctors) April 5, 2021