Schools move online-only in Peel as variant COVID-19 cases spike

Schools in Peel Region ordered closed for two weeks due to surging COVID-19 cases

Licensed child care programs will not be permitted to offer care to children whose schools are required to be closed under the order, with the exception of emergency child care for those who qualify.

"Unfortunately, current circumstances require that hard decisions must be taken locally to protect all those in our school communities, including students, teachers and staff", Toronto Public Health said in a statement.

Romana Siddiqui said her family had already made a decision to keep their three kids home by the time the Peel Region school closure was announced Monday.

TPH said schools need to be closed due to highly contagious variants of concern increasing both the risk of transmission and the risk of serious illness and death.

Dr. Lawrence Loh, chief medical officer for Peel Region, has ordered schools closed until April 18, exercising his discretionary powers under Section 22 of the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Parents were left scrambling by the late decision, which also prohibits Peel students from attending child-care centres or day camps.

Toronto Public Health is not making the same move, saying earlier it will "continue to manage risk on a school-by-school basis, taking immediate and appropriate action to address these complex outbreaks". Classes are to move online Wednesday in Toronto, with the closure to be re-assessed on April 18 when the scheduled spring break ends.

"I think everyone can agree, it's not a lot of warning".

Mark Fisher, a trustee with the Ottawa-Carleton District school board, said his family decided the two youngest kids would stay home this week, even though they will not have access to online classes, given the spike in cases in Ottawa. "So, now at least we have this confirmation and we can make that switch to remote learning and support everyone as best we can".

However they said they continue to "closely monitor" the situation in schools and will close individual schools as necessary.

The TDSB already announced the closure of 20 schools due to COVID-19 transmission Tuesday.

"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". There are over 1,000 schools with at least one reported case and 83 are now closed as a result.

"It befuddles me why when it's so clear that current measures are not working that it takes so much time and so much pressure from groups like ours before decisions are made to take into consideration the physical health and well-being of workers and students in schools".

"We'll have to just take a wait-and-see approach", she said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce's office assured Ontarians that "schools remain safe with strong public health measures in place that have kept almost 99 per cent of schools in Ontario open".

Students cross the street at Tomken Road Middle School during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, April 1, 2021.

Meanwhile, two Niagara Region school boards said staff would be eligible for COVID-19 shots starting next week.



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