Province says there are no plans to close schools to ward off a holiday surge at this time

 

Although Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie indicated that some political leaders are suggesting that the two-week Christmas holiday be extended for Ontario schools, the province doesn't appear poised to act on the proposal. 

On Nov. 12, Crombie told CP24 and Peel Regional Council that some Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area mayors have suggested extending the upcoming Christmas break to help avoid an uptick in COVID-19 cases. 

The province, which recently recorded over 1,500 new cases of the novel coronavirus, says that it has no plans to close schools at this time.  

"We are currently not considering modifications to the school year calendar for 2020," a Ministry of Education spokesperson said in an email to insauga.com. 

"Our focus remains on doing everything we can to keep students and educators safe, while keeping schools open and students learning in person. We will continue to follow public health advice to ensure safe school environments."

Crombie clarified that the suggestion regarding possible school closures came up during a meeting with other Ontario mayors and was not floated by the province. 

"What I was referring to when I said there were 'rumblings' about closing schools early before Christmas to allow time for full cleanings, were conversations I've had with some mayors from across the region," Crombie said in a statement, adding that cities and regions cannot unilaterally close schools. 

"We often share potential ideas of what else could be done to stop the spread in our community. Ultimately municipalities do not have jurisdiction over our schools, and this would be a provincial decision. I will continue working closely with mayors across the province, as well as our provincial colleagues, to find solutions to limit the spread." 

At the regional council meeting, Crombie asked Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel's Medical Officer of Health, if he's considering calling for school closures in the wake of rising cases in the region. 

On Nov. 12, Health Minister Christine Elliott said there are 448 new cases in Peel Region—just 24 fewer cases than Toronto. 

According to Peel Public Health's website, which features slightly different numbers, 425 new cases were recorded in the region on Nov. 11. The website says 121 new cases were recorded in Mississauga, 289 in Brampton and 11 in Caledon. Four cases have not yet been linked to any one municipality.

Loh, who said he cannot rule out the possibility of another lockdown, indicated that while closing schools should be an absolute last resort, they are at risk of circulating infections due to the rise in cases within the broader community. 

"Certainly, we do recognize that schools are a vital component of well-being for children and youth," Loh told council. 

"We've had success so far with protections to limit and prevent [spread], but if community cases keep rising or stay at this level, the [protective] measures won't [work as well]." 

According to Peel Public Health's website, 19 schools and childcare centres are currently experiencing outbreaks. 

A total of 49 cases have been linked to those 19 outbreaks. 

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